Christmas Greetings from Ambassador Kåre R. Aas
Christmas Greetings from Ambassador Kåre R. Aas to readers of the Norwegian American Weekly
Can it be that the holiday season has already arrived? It feels like it was just yesterday that I assumed my post as Ambassador to the United States. Yet that was back in early fall. Since then, the Embassy has hosted numerous political and cultural events. The aim has been to strengthen the ties between Norway and the U.S. even further. That will continue to be the priority also next year.
Norway values its relationship with the United States immensely. As Secretary Kerry said in his remarks when meeting with Norway’s Minister of Foreign Minister Børge Brende in November, “There’s no way to exaggerate the enormous amount of good work and cooperation and partnership that Norway has with the United States.” The bonds between our nations are strong and go way back.
You, the readers of this publication, clearly understand this, as you celebrate your Norwegian American heritage by reading about it, preparing Norwegian food, celebrating the 17th of May, keeping up old family holiday traditions and so much more.
One of our favorite holiday traditions at the Embassy is the Norwegian Christmas at Washington D.C.’s Union Station. Each year, the Embassy gives a Christmas tree to the people of the United States as thanks for their assistance during and after World War II, and as a tribute to the strong, enduring friendship between our two nations.
In addition to the miniature American and Norwegian flags and the 20,000 lights that usually adorn the tree, this year we had something else: 700 reflectors depicting Edvard Munch’s most iconic work, The Scream.
On the most basic level, The Scream might represent the angst many of us sometimes feel around the holidays, as we rush around to get our homes in order, buy presents, make travel plans, prepare food and more.
But the real reason why we highlighted this masterpiece by Norway’s most famous artist is that December 12, 2013 is the 150th anniversary of his birth.
This year has been marked by numerous celebrations of his life and work all over the world, including an exhibition of his prints at the National Gallery of Art in D.C. and the largest-ever exhibition of his work in Oslo.
Norwegian art and culture, however, do not exist only in the past. A visitor to Oslo today can see not only numerous works by Munch but also a wide range of new and exciting music, art and design. Earlier this year, The Wall Street Journal posed the question, “Is Oslo the next art capital?” I think the answer is yes. I hope many readers of the Norwegian American Weekly will visit Norway to see for themselves.
You may wonder why I referred to the Munch tree decorations as “reflectors” instead of “ornaments.” For those who don’t know, in the long, dark winter months, Norwegian children often wear special reflectors on their clothes for increased visibility. The use of reflectors, a particularly Norwegian item for the protection of children, reminds us that the holidays are truly about the little ones. It is with them in mind that the leaders of our countries come together to make decisions in hopes of providing safety and security for all of us, to help improve our collective future.
So it is with this in mind that I wish you all a very safe and happy holiday season, a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year – and peace and prosperity for all.
– Kåre R. Aas
Ambassador of Norway to the United States
This article originally appeared in the Dec. 20, 2013 issue of the Norwegian American Weekly. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (800) 305-0271.