A bit of Jul, fra Norge til U.S.A.
Christine Foster Meloni
The lighting of the Norwegian Christmas tree at Union Station in Washington, D.C. has been a popular holiday tradition since 1997.
This year’s 32-foot tree was magnificent with its little Norwegian and American flags (300 of each), 20,000 lights, and 700 polar bear ornaments. The polar bear was chosen to remind us that this Nordic animal is under threat and to emphasize the cooperation between Norway and the U.S. on climate issues.
Robert Aubry Davis, a native Washingtonian and popular radio and television personality, was the enthusiastic Master of Ceremonies. The program began with the singing of the two national anthems. Mezzo Soprano Sissel Bakken gave a stirring rendition of the Norwegian national anthem and Tenor Ben Hilgert followed with an equally powerful rendering of the Star Spangled Banner.
Davis introduced Kåre R. Aas, Norway’s distinguished ambassador to the U.S., who offered warm words of welcome to those present and emphasized the friendship between Norway and the United States. He then called on Sharon D. Anderson, the Interim Secretary of the District of Columbia, to accept the tree, Norway’s gift to the people of Washington.
Next, Ambassador Aas introduced Senator Amy Klobuchar, the first woman elected to represent Minnesota in the U.S. Senate. Her state boasts the largest number of Norwegian Americans in the country. She amused her audience with stories about the Norwegian Americans in Minnesota including a tale about a giant fiberglass cod called Lou T. Fisk in the town of Madison. She then had the honor of lighting the tree.
Ambassador Aas introduced the special guest from Norway’s Arctic region, the celebrated Sami performer Sara Oskal. Oskal, who was raised in a reindeer herding family, shared stories of her people’s Christmas traditions and captivated everyone with her evocative singing of several Sami yoiks (traditional chants). She was beautiful in her colorful traditional clothing, from her cap to her boots.
The program concluded with the arrival of Santa and Mrs. Claus, who gave a gift to each child present.
Before and after the ceremony, the wonderful Carolers of Greater Washington, D.C. sang Christmas songs. This is a group of trained opera singers, most of whom are of Norwegian descent.
Throughout the evening, Norwegian gløgg (mulled wine) and pepperkaker (gingerbread cookies) were served. Despite the cold and rainy December night, the atmosphere was joyful and cheery. This is definitely a tradition that should be continued.
Tusen takk, Norge!
This article originally appeared in the Dec. 12, 2014, issue of the Norwegian American Weekly. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (800) 305-0271.