A unique diversity-celebrating tapestry marketed by the store chain Åhléns as part of its Christmas campaign has made many Swedes see red. While some pointed out that the claim that Santa is Turkish inaccurate, others were insulted by the general tone of the campaign perceived as "anti-Swedish", "self-hating" and "masochistic".
Åhléns's freshly launched Christmas tapestry describes a real Swedish Christmas as having "a German spruce, Dutch saffron bread and a Turkish Santa".
According to the news outlet Nyheter Idag, Åhléns originally formulated its Facebook announcement that the goal of the campaign was to "punch holes in the myth of the 'Swedish' Christmas". Later, it re-phrased its goal as "to celebrate Swedish Christmas with its diversity". Still later, the post was modified once again, this time as to celebrate "All possible Christmas", which is also the theme-defining motto of Åhléns's Christmas campaign.
"Christmas can be celebrated in all sorts of forms, some do not celebrate at all", Åhléns sales manager Cecilia Mortimer Meurling said in a press release. "No matter how you celebrate, the magic is the same", she added.
The aftermath, however, was not slow in coming. Åhléns Facebook was soon flooded with angry comments, with Swedes pledging to stop shopping at the popular department store they claimed had been "hijacked by leftists" and "became a victim of identity politics". Åhléns was also urged to stop "ramming ideology down other people's throats".
"Negative campaign this year again. What are you up for next? Midsummer? Mayfire? Summer vacation?" Anders Wahlström wrote.
"Total mumbo jumbo by Åhléns", columnist Tomas Gür wrote. He then went on to point out that Santa Claus or Nicholas of Myra, hailed as Archbishop of Myra was none other than a Greek living in late 3rd and early 4th century BC.
Columnist Mohamed Omar called this tendency to "triumphantly point out everything that is non-Swedish or even non-European" in order to undermine criticism of mass immigration and multiculturalism "national masochism". Omar also drew parallels between attempts to manipulate historical writing and George Orwell's dystopian novel 1984.
The term "masochism" was also featured in a column by Swedish author, theologist, ethicist, and Moderate party member Ann Heberlein, who said it was "equally bizarre as unattractive".
"Swedes can be the world's most morally educated people. From cradle to grave we are being informed on what to like and what not by intrusive educators, officials, program managers and advertising agencies. <…> We get to learn that men and women are exactly the same (but men are still a little worse), that everyone is equal (though we, as privileged ethnic Swedes, must let others go first) and that nationalism is ugly (but only as long as you are Swedish). If you are Kurdish or Afghan, that's okay", Heberlein wrote.
However, there was no shortage of positive reactions either. With many lauding the store for "having the guts" to "tell the truth" that "many have trouble accepting".
Founded in 1899, Åhléns is a chain of Swedish department stores. With locations in almost every city in the country, including more than a dozen in Stockholm alone it is one of the largest fashion stores in Sweden.