Christmas Greetings from Ambassador Kåre R. Aas to readers of the Norwegian American Weekly

Photo: Bruce Guthrie Ambassador Aas (right) with Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar in front of the Christmas tree at Union Station, festooned with reflective polar bears.

Photo: Bruce Guthrie
Ambassador Aas (right) with Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar in front of the Christmas tree at Union Station, festooned with reflective polar bears.

Dear Readers,

Greetings from Washington D.C.!

Here at the Norwegian Embassy, preparations for the holidays are in full swing. As I’m writing this, our little Christmas tree is being set up in the lobby, complete with lights and some modest ornaments.

Our in-house tree can’t hold a candle to the one we lit at Union Station on Dec. 1, though. That tree stands 30 feet tall, has 20,000 lights!

Last year’s tree was decorated with reproductions of Edvard Munch’s Scream, in honor of the 150th anniversary of his birth. This year we are featuring 700 Norwegian-made reflectors (safety items worn by Norwegian children and adults to make them more visible at night) in the shape of polar bears.

The polar bears are a powerful symbol of the Arctic—a wonderful region with breathtaking landscapes and cherished wildlife. The Arctic also happens to be home to roughly 10% of the Norwegian population.

As many of you might already know, the Arctic is changing fast. Climate change is posing new challenges to the ecosystems, and threatening the polar bears. This is why it’s important that we—the United States and Norway, continue to work together to address the devastating impact of global climate change.

This year has been a significant year for Norway. Norwegians around the world have celebrated the 200-year anniversary of the signing of our constitution on May 17, 1814. On that day Norway took the first step in becoming the democratic nation it is today. Here at the embassy we celebrated the bicentennial by hosting an exhibit of Norwegian modern art. It was an excellent evening complete with a birthday cake, a brass band, and joyful guests.

Norway enjoys a strong position in the U.S. thanks to the Norwegian-American community, Norwegian enterprises, many political visits, joint cooperation with the U.S. in many areas and dedicated embassy staff. This is an excellent base for strengthening the cooperation even further for many years to come.

However, the collaboration between our two countries goes well beyond this. Another popular tree-lighting ceremony took place in D.C. not long after ours: the National Christmas Tree. I’m pleased to report that Norway’s own Nico & Vinz participated in the ceremony, at the invitation of President Obama.

The singer-songwriter duo are famous for the song “Am I Wrong,” which reached No. 4 on the Billboard Hot 100 list in America. The duo’s success serves as a nice reminder that Norwegian arts and culture are as relevant today as they were in the time of Munch. It will be interesting to see what other Norwegian cultural phenomena make their way to these shores in the years to come.

Speaking of looking forward: Christmas is a joyous time of year, a time we spend with our loved ones, a time to take stock of where we’ve been, but also a time to look forward. In that spirit, now and into the New Year, I wish peace and prosperity for all of the readers of Norwegian American Weekly.

I have already had the great pleasure to meet some of you during my first year as ambassador of Norway to this great country. I hope in the coming years to meet many more.

Thank you for your interest in Norway and in your Norwegian heritage.

I wish you all a very Merry Christmas—God Jul!

This article originally appeared in the Dec. 19, 2014, issue of the Norwegian American Weekly.

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The Norwegian American is North America's oldest and only Norwegian newspaper, published since May 17, 1889.