The Julekalender was a Danish TV series that ran at Christmas 1991 . It was written and performed almost entirely by a trio of Danish comedy musicians called De Nattergale with financial and technical assistance from TV2, a Danish television company. It was hugely successful at the time, causing many invented phrases from the series to enter popular culture (at least for a while) and was later released on VHS, and recently, DVD.
It had 24 episodes (one for each day of December until Christmas Eve), as has been typical of other TV "calendars" before and since The Julekalender.
Each of the three actors had two roles. One role was as a Nisse, a type of gnome or elf associated with Christmas in Danish tradition but not to be confused with Norse mythology. The other role is as a normal, if overly stereotyped, Dane.
The premise of the film is fairly simple: long, long ago, the race of Nisser lived happily with Father Christmas in Greenland, getting up to mischief with the humans, drinking, and making merry. Then the "Nå-såere" came - evil, vampire-esque creatures with an unhealthy obsession for money and counting, and almost eradicated the Nisser. A few Nisser survived, among them good old Gammelnok (literally, "old enough", the one character not to be played by a member of De Nattergale), who is now on the brink of death, as the music box that plays his life tune needs to be wound up. Gammelnok gathers three of the remaining Nisser (Hansi, Gunther, and Fritz) and sends them off to Denmark, to find the old Nisse cave where the key to wind up the music box is. He gives them The Book to take with them, an ancient tome that contains the answer to any and all questions, warning them to take great care that it does not fall into the hands of a Nå-såer. If this were to happen, all would be lost. They are also warned to take care, as the Nå-såers nowadays have come to look like normal humans, but when they drink alcohol, they come to look like they did in the old days, with fangs, and thick-rimmed glasses. The three merrily set off, and this is where the first episode begins.
One of the quirks of the series, and one which made up a good share of its appeal, is the strange language that the Nisser speak. They themselves call it English, but it is an odd mixture of both Danish and English vocabulary, grammar, and sentence structure, leading to some very humorous phrases and structures (at least, to anyone who speaks both English and Danish). This was likely a good-natured jest at the heavy Danish accent that many Danes speak with, and the (back then) fairly low level of English proficiency of Danes, especially outside of large cities. Examples of particularly interesting, odd, or funny phrases are listed here (without an understanding of Danish, the humour will likely be lost):
"He who first gets to the mill is he who first gets painted" "Think you da lige a little about" "Let us straks try to smake it!"
Additionally, key characters, events, or items are also called by odd hybrid names: the music box, for example, is a play dåse, Father Christmas is the Christmas man and the act of wood-carving is called "snitting". Since De Nattergale are actually musicians (albeit comedy musicians), the Nisser often burst into song, or find excuses to work music into each episode.
Another large part of the appeal are the highly stereotypical Danes that the same three actors also play: Oluf and Gertrud Sand, a country bumpkin couple that live and work on a potato farm, and Benny Jensen, a travelling salesman (or so he claims) from Copenhagen (who turns out to be a Nå-såer). Oluf and Gertrud speak with a broad country dialect, often leading to Benny misunderstanding what they say. There is also a large clash between the two different ways of life (as Benny comes to move in with Oluf and Gertrud in an early episode, as his car runs out of petrol, punctures, breaks down completely, and then gets stolen, supposedly by the "Polish Mafia"). Benny also think Oluf's fathers name is funny, because it's Anders Sand, and that sounds like Anders And, which is the Danish name for Donald Duck.