Facts Matter: Sweden did not rename Christmas, nor did Trump ban 'Feliz Navidad'

Nor did Canada give up its border

  • A U.S. Border Patrol agent points out the U.S., United Nations and Canada flags marking the international border with Canada on the Peace Bridge in Buffalo, N.Y.

    A U.S. Border Patrol agent points out the U.S., United Nations and Canada flags marking the international border with Canada on the Peace Bridge in Buffalo, N.Y. Associated Press/2011

Updated 12/22/2018 3:52 PM

A post circulating on social media falsely claimed Sweden had changed the name of Christmas to Winter Celebration to avoid offending Muslims, according to Snopes.com.

The rumor said the change was meant to appease Sweden's extremist Muslim population.


The information was not based on an official decree from the government, Snopes said, but rather on a headline published Dec. 2 by the Swedish newspaper Sydsvenskan.

The headline, "Malmö flyttar vinterfirandet till Stortorget av säkerhetsskäl," loosely translates to "Malmö moves the winter celebration to Stortorget for safety reasons," according to Snopes. Some anti-Islam websites picked up on the fact the newspaper used the term "vinterfirandet" (winter celebration) instead of "Julen" (Christmas) and claimed secular terms were used to avoid offending Muslims.

Various forms of "Julen" were used in the subhead and throughout the article, Snopes said. Sydsvenskan also featured a Christmas section with stories about Christmas songs, Christmas trees, Christmas gifts and a Christmas calendar.

The Swedish government's official website includes an explanation of the country's Christmas customs and traditions, according to Snopes, and refers to the Ingmar Bergman film "Fanny and Alexander," which was set in the late 1800s but "nevertheless reflects Swedish Christmas celebrations today."

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'Feliz Navidad' not banned by president

A satirical article published this month said President Donald Trump has banned the holiday song "Feliz Navidad" from the White House.

Based on comments Trump has made about Mexicans and immigrants, along with a promise to bring back the greeting "Merry Christmas," many readers found the story to be plausible, according to Snopes.com.

The report originated on the satirical blog Laughing in Disbelief, Snopes said, and claimed Trump banned the Christmas song because it "makes him think of 'Mexicans and Democrats.'"

Laughing in Disbelief, which often targets religious institutions, has a disclaimer on the site stating articles on its blog are "a piece of fiction," Snopes said.

Snopes points out that when Barack Obama was in office many stories falsely claimed the president had banned a variety of Christmas traditions, including the phrase "Merry Christmas," Nativity scenes, Christmas cards, Christmas trees and the Charlie Brown Christmas special.


Pelosi doesn't live behind a wall

As the debate concerning a border wall heated up, a meme on social media showing a huge house behind a wall included the claim the home belonged to Democratic House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, according to PolitiFact.com.

The post first showed up in February but resurfaced this month, captioned, "Pelosi's Mansion complete with a high perimeter wall, gun toting security and carbon spewing SUV's. … Tear down that wall!"

But the photo is not of Pelosi's home, PolitiFact said. The image shows a piece of property that in 2013 Forbes magazine called San Francisco's "most expensive home."

Based on information from Pelosi's office and city real estate records, PolitiFact said the representative's actual San Francisco home is not behind a wall.

Canadian not ceding control of border

A photo making the rounds on Facebook shows a U.N. flag hoisted on the Peace Bridge and states Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is planning to give the United Nations control over the country's borders.

Trudeau did not just install the flag on the bridge over the Niagara River that connects the United States and Canada, and there are no plans to give the U.N. power over the country's borders, according to The Associated Press.

The post began circulating on social media last week after Canada, along with more than 150 other countries, adopted the nonbinding Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration, the AP said. The agreement is to help countries deal with mass migration.

Another false post claimed the agreement would take away Canada's sovereignty, the AP said.

Ron Rienas, general manager of the Peace Bridge Authority, told the AP the U.N. flag has been displayed on the bridge for more than 40 years.

• Bob Oswald is a veteran Chicago-area journalist and former news editor of the Elgin Courier-News. Contact him at boboswald33@gmail.com.

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