Edison Arellano and Girish Pulinkala, organisers at Jul på Uplands.
Edison Arellano and Girish Pulinkala, organisers at Jul på Uplands.
Foto: Jana Paegle

Jul på Uplands - an alternative Christmas since 1956

Edison Arellano and Girish Pulinkala are this year’s organizers of Jul på Uplands, a longstanding tradition and alternative charitable celebration from the 24th to the 25th of December at Uplands Nation. The initiative has been up and running for over 50 years and brings together thousands of guests including people experiencing homelessness, refugees in need, and  students who cannot go back home or have decided to stay in Uppsala over the weekend. Ergo sat down with the organizers at Uplands nation by Sankt Larsgatan.

The two friends have their laptops out and energy drinks on the table. They’re receiving plenty of calls when I arrive. In virtually no time, the grand hall will be serving food, julmust, and glögg to hundreds of guests. The library is to be turned into a kids’ playroom, and nations, restaurants and other businesses are donating foodstuffs for the upcoming Christmas celebration.

Girish is originally from India and is pursuing his Master’s in bioinformatics at Uppsala University. Edison Arellano is from Ecuador and Spain and has just finished his Master’s degree in Astronomy while looking for a PhD. When he’s not studying or volunteering as an organizer for Jul at Uplands he also works at a restaurant in town.

"This is a platform for people, where they can either choose to work and spend time with the other volunteers that we have, or we accept people as guests who come in for fika, a good lunch, or dinner."

How did you come in contact with this initiative?

— I was here last year during Covid, and I wasn’t able to go home because of Covid restrictions in Spain. Since I’m kind of active at Uplands, I thought that I could swing by and help out with this project. Back then, I didn’t know what it was, and I thought that it was a very nice gesture from the nation itself, Edison tells me.

The amount of volunteers who have signed up for the event is estimated to be about 115-120 people this year. At the core organizing level it’s mainly Edison and Girish alongside full-timers at the nation, with a little bit of help from previous Uplands 1Q Ulrika (Ullis) Andersdotter who has a lot of experience with arranging Jul på Uplands

Girish describes Jul på Uplands as a charity initiative with a long history. It’s a tradition that entails helping people in need and opening the nation's doors to those who usually don’t celebrate Christmas

— This is a platform for people, where they can either choose to work and spend time with the other volunteers that we have, or we accept people as guests who come in for fika, a good lunch, or dinner. It’s meant for people to spend good time with one another during these days of the year. It’s all alcohol-free and based upon the donations that we receive from people all around Uppsala and Sweden in general. So it’s a non-profitable event, Girish says.



"Everyone can donate whatever they would like."

In relation to the number of visitors expected this year, Edison says that the situation is “quite tough”. 

— The problem is that we don’t know what to expect this year. Obviously we have had Covid the previous year, now there is a war happening. It seems like everything is very hard for people, so we might expect a lot.

I asked Edison and Girish  about how their friends and acquaintances usually celebrate. Girish underlines that for their peers with a home-base in Europe, it’s convenient enough to go home over the holidays, whereas those who moved to Uppsala from other continents, mostly stay in town, keeping busy and helping out with arranging Jul på Uplands for instance.

Since the event is made possible through donated foodstuffs, clothes and other useful articles, I ask Edison and Girish more about the donations.

— So far, we don’t cap the donations at anything or anyone. Everyone can donate whatever they would like. We have received Christmas presents from Svenska Kyrkan [The Swedish Church], we have had clothes donated by different people, individuals. We will have food donated by a few places here in Uppsala and we’re also expecting money donations from other places, Edison explains.

Whatever is donated, the organizers accept it and make sure it is turned into something fruitful and useful to the visitors of Jul på Uplands.

How do you expect these days to go? What will the activities be?

— It’s not only these two days that Jul på Uplands takes place, but we also prepare on the 22nd and 23rd. We turn the nation from what it is now, to what it should be for Jul på Uplands. We will have more Christmas decorations and we will try to put up a tree that we’ll have upstairs. We will turn the grand hall into a place for people to eat. The kitchen has to be prepped for cooking, and this starts on the 23rd. 

Girish adds that there will be a café running for visitors to have fika. 

— Upstairs in the grand hall we’ll be serving traditional Swedish Christmas foods and other foods received as donations from the other restaurants and nations that we have. There is also a bar section which will be serving julmust and glögg. We will have a playroom for kids in the nation library where they can play, sit and talk peacefully and have a good time. We have two people coming to the playroom, one showing magic tricks on Christmas Eve. There’s also a lady who will be narrating some fairy tales for the little kids. 

For the older guests, there will also be an orchestra performing, playing music of various genres. 

Despite a year of struggling pandemic recovery, and roughly 1 in 10 Uppsala citizens experiencing poverty, Jul på Uplands stands out as an inclusive and warm weekend, offering rest and Christmas joy for all. 

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