A royal Christmas in Washington, D.C.

Once again, the Christmas tree at Union Station shines bright

DC Christmas tree

Photo: Lori Ann Reinhall
Crown Prince Haakon of Norway expressed his country’s gratitude to the people of the United States at the tree-lighting ceremony at Union Station in Washington, D.C., on Dec. 8.

The Norwegian American

This year the moment felt extra special when the 32-foot tree at Union Station in Washington, D.C., came all aglow with over 20,000 lights on Dec. 8. Not only was Crown Prince Haakon of Norway there to celebrate, but everyone had waited for two years to see the Christmas tree again in all its glory.


Photo: Lori Ann Reinhall
Symbolically, the Christmas tree at Union Station is decorated with Norwegian and American flags.

For 25 years, since 1998, it’s been a tradition for Norway to celebrate its friendship with the United States with the annual tree-lighting. In typical Norwegian tradition, the tree is decorated with streamers of Norwegian flags, but importantly, American flags as well, symbolic of the strong ties between the two countries.

“It’s wonderful to see you all here tonight,” said Norway’s ambassador to the United States, Anniken R. Krutnes. It was an occasion she had been looking forward since arriving at her post two years ago.  

“Finally, that day has come,” she said.

Krutnes and others recognized the difficult times we have gone through since the onset of the pandemic and the joy of being able to congregate in person again, albeit with face masks and social distancing in place. 

“I hope that you can feel some joy as we light the tree that symbolizes the friendship between our countries,” Krutnes said.

Yet, the “new normal” for the time being did not dampen the spirit of the celebration with the upbeat tone the ambassador set. 

This year’s festivities included a performance lineup co-presented by Mars Arts D.C. and the Royal Norwegian Embassy. The evening kicked off at 5 p.m. with the D.C.-based string ensemble The C Street Collective, followed by a lively performance by local teenage dance virtuoso Matthew Crittenden. It was upbeat start to the program hosted by Rayshun LaMarr, a past contest on “The Voice” kept the rhythm of the evening moving, and Norwegian-Brazilian jazz singer Charlotte Dos Santo slowed down the tempo a bit with her soft, smoothing voice.

But, of course, the appearance of the crown prince on the podium and the actual lighting of the tree were the main highlights of the evening. 

Crown Prince Haakon shared the story of how his father spent the first five years of his life in the United States in exile during World War II, having been invited to safety by President Franklin D. Roosevelt. He told of how his father even had memories of playing underneath the desk in the Oval Office at the White House. 

But Crown Prince Haakon was quick to mention that it was “more than a family story.” Norway and the United States are partners on a global stage, underlining the importance of the partnership of the two countries as NATO allies. It is an important bond, both past and present. The crown prince ended his tribute with a simple, “Thank you.”

A new home for the embassy

Royal Norwegian Embassy

Photo: Lori Ann Reinhall
Guests at the opening reception at the Royal Norwegian Embassy were amazed and delighted by the sounds of music performed on ice instruments.

The tree-lighting at Union Square, which has always been free and open to the public, was followed by an exclusive, invitation-only event at the Royal Norwegian Embassy to celebrate the completion of a two-year remodeling project. 

The evening’s program included addresses by both Krutnes and the crown prince, again stressing the importance of the alliance between Norway and the United States. The new spacious, light, and airy facility is designed to provide a space for productive dialogue and a sharing of knowledge and ideas can take place.

The second part of the evening was equally as festive as the first, as guests enjoyed mingling, as they were served a selection of distinctly Norwegian hors d’oeuvres.

And, once again, it was the musical program that set the mood, with a special performance by Terje Isungset, who composes and performs on his own instruments crafted from ice. Maria Skranes also played with him and added her hauntingly beautiful vocals.

The performance also has a symbolic aspect, as many of the guests participated in two days of seminars on the High North and sustainable solutions, as the United States and Norway continue to work together.

This article originally appeared in the Dec. 17, 2021, issue of The Norwegian American.

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Lori Ann Reinhall

Lori Ann Reinhall, editor-in-chief of The Norwegian American, is a multilingual journalist and cultural ambassador based in Seattle. She is the president of the Seattle-Bergen Sister City Association, and she serves on the boards of several Nordic organizations.