Tomteparaden – the Tomte Through the Ages

6 October 202314 January 2024
Previous exhibition

John Bauer, The Christmas Goat, 1912. Photo: Bukowskis

In Tomteparaden, you get to follow a cultural icon's fantastic, whirling journey through the ages. Discover who Santa Claus really is, where he comes from and where he is going. His background is a mixture of folk beliefs, profane and Christian - and above all multicultural! On the changing journey, we also meet a saint, the Christmas goat, helpful elves, and not least the grumpy farm elf who turned Nils Holgersson into a tinkerer.

The story begins with St. Nicholas, known for his generosity. St. Nicholas Day is still celebrated in some European countries by giving gifts to each other. In the Middle Ages, according to tradition, St. Nicholas had a goat-like devil figure as a companion. He was kept in chains to show the saint's power over the devil and is believed to be a forerunner of our Swedish Christmas goat.

Lars Carlsson, Rest and warmth. Copyright: Pictura
Haddon Sundblom, Santa Claus Season's Greetings, 1962. Copyright: The Coca-Cola Company

When the Dutch emigrated to the United States, they brought with them the tradition of St. Nikolaus, which translated in Dutch is Sinterklaas, which later became Santa Claus. The contemporary Santa Claus is, among other things, shaped by artists and illustrators, but also by companies such as Coca-Cola and Walt Disney. In Scandinavia, Gårdstomten, a folkloristic elf, has existed in parallel with Santa Claus. This grumpy and tough farm watchman has been interpreted by Selma Lagerlöf and Viktor Rydberg, among others. Through Jenny Nyström's popular Christmas pictures and the commercialization of Christmas, the farm elf of the farming community was transformed into a friendly elf who is today an natural part of Christmas.

Elsa Beskow, template for the Christmas magazine Jultomten, 1898. Photo: Bukowskis
John Bauer, The Christmas Goat, 1911.
The image of Santa is constantly changing and has been interpreted by countless artists and writers in books, Christmas magazines and Christmas cards. In Tomteparaden we meet some of our most popular artists such as Elsa Beskow, Carl Larsson, John Bauer, Jenny Nyström, Haddon Sundblom and Per Åhlin. The exhibition also highlights the folk and immensely popular motifs of artists such as Lars Carlsson and Anders Olsson. 
Welcome to Tomteparaden - Santa's journey through the ages!