Fact Check

Sweden Bans Christmas Lights to Avoid Angering Muslim Refugees

Unreliable web sites spun a news story about the Swedish Transport Administration nixing Christmas lights on street poles into a fictional tale about kowtowing to Muslim immigrants.

Published Oct. 27, 2016

Sweden has discontinued the tradition of adorning street poles with Christmas lights to avoid angering Muslim refugees.

A news item posted by the Swedish news service SVT on 23 October 2016 reported that Trafikverket, the Swedish Transport Administration, will no longer allow local municipalities to hang Christmas lights on the street poles under its control, citing two reasons: first, the law doesn't authorize the agency to share its electricity, and second, the poles aren't designed to bear extra weight, so Christmas decorations are a safety hazard.

This wasn't happy news for small towns like Hestra, in western Sweden, where residents have adorned the main street with poinsettias every Christmas for the past 20 years, SVP reported. They asked for and received a two-year exemption on the ruling, which means they'll be able to decorate as usual this Christmas and next, but what happens after that is a question mark. Several municipalities have vowed to fight the decision.

Though there wasn't a single mention of religion, immigrants, or refugees in the original report, various unreliable web sites quickly recast it as a "War on Christmas" story. For example, the conspiracy theory site InfoWars presented the Christmas light policy as a "capitulation to Islam":

Towns across Sweden have banned Christmas street lights in the name of “security,” but the real reason is almost certainly because the country has completely capitulated to Islam after importing countless Muslim migrants over the last two years.

Breitbart contributor Milo Yiannopoulos posted an article questioning the Swedish Transport Administration's justification of the policy:

So what changed? The weight of these holiday lights? The durability of street poles? Or maybe it was the massive influx of Muslim migrants that dramatically altered the demographic landscape of Sweden over the past two years…

Indeed, it seems the only real “security” concern is offending Muslim migrants — the same ones responsible for destroying local businesses.

The Morning News USA web site took the cake for hyperbole, headlining its article, "Sweden No Longer Celebrating Christmas: Bans Holiday for Fear of Offending Muslim Migrants." Yet nothing could be further from the truth. Sweden hasn't banned Christmas, nor has it banned any form of Christmas decorations apart from those attached to street poles. Its justification wasn't "fear of offending Muslim migrants," but rather unauthorized use of electricity and public safety concerns.

As part of their apparent effort to generate anti-immigrant hysteria, some of these sites also repeated false reports of "no-go zones" overrun with lawless migrants in Swedish cities. In September 2016, according to the news site The Local, an official of the Swedish Embassy in Hungary (where rumors of immigrant-caused chaos in Sweden and other parts of Europe were proliferating) said no such zones, "however they are labelled or defined," exist in Sweden.


Löfgren, Emma.   "Embassy: No-Go Zones 'Do Not Exist in Sweden.'"    The Local.   23 September 2016.

Renulf, Kristin.   "No Christmas Lights in Small Towns for Advent."    SVT.   23 October 2016.

David Emery is a West Coast-based writer and editor with 25 years of experience fact-checking rumors, hoaxes, and contemporary legends.

Article Tags