Christmas greetings from
Ambassador Kåre R. Aas
A message to the readers of The Norwegian American
Ambassador Kåre R. Aas
Royal Norwegian Embassy
One of the events we at the embassy look forward to every year is the Norwegian Christmas celebration and tree lighting ceremony at Washington, D.C.’s Union Station. It’s always a festive affair, with a choir singing and a visit from Santa, with many children in attendance, and often participation by members of the Washington and federal governments.
This year, with help from our partners, the Norwegian-American Chamber of Commerce and Union Station, marked the 22nd year the embassy has sponsored this event and presented the tree to the people of America in recognition of the enduring friendship between our two nations.
In addition to our special guests, with assistance from the Washington Performing Arts Society, we even featured a simulcast of a concert by famed cellist Yo-Yo Ma.
And the tree. The impressive tree. It stands 32 feet high and is adorned with 20,000 lights. And it features hundreds of decorations made by Norwegian artist Liliane Blom, with the help of many volunteers, including students from three local elementary schools.
Those ornaments are beautiful and unique, depicting fish and jellyfish and other undersea creatures. And what makes them special is that they are all made by hand, and all made from recycled materials.
You might be wondering, what do fish have to do with Christmas? Perhaps you’ve never heard the story of Rudolph, the red-nosed herring. I assure you it’s very popular in Scandinavia. But all kidding aside, every year our Christmas display at Union Station has a special message. In 2013, for example, we celebrated the 150th anniversary of Edvard Munch’s birth.
This year, we are highlighting a more serious theme: the health of our ocean.
You’ll notice that I referred to “our ocean,” singular. That’s because all of the Earth’s major bodies of water are connected, and what happens to one affects them all.
The ocean has of course played a major role in so many aspects of Norwegian life since the beginning of time. It nourishes us. We look to it for sustenance, and we look to it for recreation. It fuels our economy and connects us to the world, opening up avenues for trade and commerce from the time of the Vikings right through to today.
But our ocean is in trouble. Pollution, plastics, and microplastics present an ever-growing threat to life under the sea. Rising temperatures brought about by climate change are destroying fragile marine ecosystems. Coral reefs are fading and dying, and certain fish stocks are dwindling. Overfishing is another major part of the problem. A growing world population will depend more and more upon those fish stocks for sustenance. Now more than ever, we need to protect our ocean and its inhabitants. Our future depends on it.
With these things in mind, Norway is taking an international lead to foster a sustainable ocean economy—an economy where activities related to the ocean are in harmony with nature. An international high-level panel of world leaders, chaired by Norway’s Prime Minister Erna Solberg, is developing recommendations for such a shift.
The holidays are a time of hope, so I don’t want my message to seem to be nothing but doom and gloom. These problems are fixable. We can reduce ocean pollution. We can cut the use of damaging microplastics. But we have to act, and we have to act soon—and it will take the efforts of all nations working together.
That is my hope for this Christmas: that the nations of the world will continue to cooperate and solve this issue in time.
And, as it is every year, my wish for the New Year is for peace and prosperity for all.
Many thanks to all the people who work at The Norwegian American for this outstanding publication, and for providing me a forum in which to address these important topics. The Norwegian-American community at large means a great deal to me and my colleagues at the embassy. Thanks for everything you do to enhance relations between Norway in the United States, two tremendous allies whose ties grow stronger with each passing year.
Kåre R. Aas
Ambassador of Norway to the United States
This article originally appeared in the December 14, 2018, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.