Swedish singer removes ‘God’ from 19th-century Christmas hymn

Swedish singer removes ‘God’ from 19th-century Christmas hymn

A Swedish singer has received backlash for removing references to God from a 19th-century hymn that she performed during an annual Christmas season television program.

Singer-songwriter Malin Foxdal, 43, performed Zacharias Topelius’ 1887 Christmas song Julvisa on SVT’s Luciamorgon program last week, which airs every December 13 in celebration of Lucia Day. Foxdal changed the lyrics, however, to exclude references to God, which were instead replaced with references to ’love’ and ’light.’

The modified lyrics sparked controversy in Sweden and beyond, with critics citing it as an example of the secularization of Christmas.

Former MP Per Landgren (KD) wrote in a Facebook post: “How far can you go in terms of SVT’s deletion of the author’s intention with his poetry work and thus of a Christian cultural heritage in the song lyrics?”

He noted the Christmas period in the changed version is still allowed to be “signed” and that the angel guard from the original text remains, but have replaced “give me the glory of God” to “give me a candle” and that instead of “the king” you invite “love” as a guest.

Salvation Army Officer Marie Willermark protested over the “thinned-out” version in a post on Twitter, arguing that without references to God, the hymn becomes “a prayer without a recipient who can answer.”

Finnish journalist Olav Melin called the incident “an example of the pyromania of secularization,” which is increasingly “burning up everything that gives tradition meaning.”

“For most of us, regardless of faith, the word God in the psalm gives a meaning quite significant at Christmas time,” Melin explained, questioning whether God has “become too dangerous to use and should be rewritten.”

SVT project manager Marion Jernrada defended the performance, however, arguing that singers “are allowed to put their stamp on words and tone, just like in all other music programs,” and that Foxdal’s modified lyrics “relate in a beautiful, innovative and respectful way to Topelius’ original text from 1887.”

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