The Embassy of Sweden in Vilnius sent out an unusual and musical Christmas greeting this year. When the recipients received an email from the embassy they were invited to click on a picture of the entire embassy staff in Christmas hats. The email then led them to the festive video in which the staff bellow out ‘We Wish You a Merry Christmas’ in Swedish, English and Lithuanian.

The embassy staff, which in previous years had always sent out paper Christmas cards, wanted to do something entirely different this year. The question of the Christmas card kept the staff busy through a number of heated discussions before they arrived at the conclusion that sending a paper postcard seemed outdated and that they should do something less conventional and better suited to our day and age.

“Environmental issues are one of the top priorities of the political agenda in Sweden,” said Jone Sestakauskaite, Policy Officer at the Embassy. With the Climate Change Summit in Paris just having drawn to a close, the embassy staff decided to go for a more sustainable way to convey their Christmas wishes this year. “Aside from all of that, it is a lot of work signing all those postcards by hand,” Sestakauskaite added laughing.

Those who are acquainted with Cecilia Ruthström-Ruin, the Ambassador of Sweden, know she is in possession of a good set of vocal cords. The festive Christmas video opens with a shot of the ambassador in a red dress as she sings the first notes of ‘We Wish You a Merry Christmas’ accompanied by an acoustic guitar. “The ambassador is a great singer,” said Sestakauskaite, who appears in the video herself.

In producing the video the embassy went all out and hired a professional cameraman and film editor. “We actually had no rehearsals at all,” said Sestakauskaite. Still, it is the embassy staff that deserve the credit for writing the script, dealing with the logistics, and of course the acting and singing. It is noteworthy that there was not one person in the embassy who did not feel up to the task of singing. Even the embassy’s dog Simpson plays a role. “He was very cooperative in the beginning, but then he got tired of receiving so much attention. Luckily he became more cooperative again after we fed him some Christmas buns,” said Sestakauskaite.

Stealing chocolates

One of the scenes in the video will be most recognisable for Swedes, but people from different cultures might not get the full significance without knowing some backstory. “We wanted to give the film a certain symbolism from a Swedish perspective,” said Sestakauskaite. In this scene an embassy staff member tries to steal a chocolate from the bottom layer of a box of traditional Swedish Christmas sweets. “There are different sorts of pieces of chocolate in that box. On Christmas Eve it is always a sort of competition who gets the best pieces. As an unspoken rule, no one should start with the bottom layer in the box, before the top layer is finished,” said Sestakauskaite.

The staff shot the video in one day, without any significant blunders or Christmas ornaments breaking. “It has to be said that the whole meeting was fuelled by a great number of Christmas buns and cookies. Everyone was quite full after the shoot,” said Sestakauskaite.

Vilnius may not have seen much snow this year, but the embassy staff – still happy from all the singing – keep high hopes in these last few days coming up to Christmas. Sestakauskaite: “It is typical in Sweden, and most of the time in Lithuania, so we wish all Lithuanians a white and snowy Christmas. We hope everyone may spend this time full of jolly, happy spirits with their dear ones, friends and family.”

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