Welcoming DC’s Norwegian Christmas tree

The annual lighting of the tree from Norway is a warm beginning to the holiday season

Ida Jenshus plays the guitar in front of the Norwegian Christmas tree

Photo: Benedicte Bjerknes / Royal Norwegian Embassy
Ida Jenshus performs while Senator Murkowski, Ambassador Aas, and Secretary Vaughan listen.

Christine Foster Meloni
Washington, D.C.

Every year for the past 19 years, Norway has given a beautifully decorated Christmas tree to the people of the District of Columbia. It is displayed in the city’s majestic Union Station for the entire month of December. Its presentation is always a joyous occasion.

This year Norwegians, Norwegian Americans, locals, and tourists gathered in the West Porch of D.C.’s main train terminal on a chilly, rainy December 1 evening. Despite the gloomy weather, the spirits of the many adults and children present were definitely not dampened.

The Carolers of Greater Washington provided holiday music throughout the ceremony. One member is Norwegian and many of the others have Norwegian ancestors, which makes this event very special for them.

Robert Aubry Davis, a popular Washington media personality, was the Master of Ceremonies. He took the stage with his trademark enthusiasm and introduced the special guests, Norwegian Ambassador Kåre R. Aas, Senator Lisa Ann Murkowski from Alaska, and Secretary of the District of Columbia, Lauren Vaughan.

Davis then invited two members of the Carolers to begin the program. Classical soloists Norwegian Mezzo Soprano Sissel Bakken and American Tenor Ben Hilgert presented the Norwegian and American National Anthems, respectively, in stirring clear and beautiful tones.

Next Davis introduced Ambassador Aas, who warmly welcomed everyone before presenting the tree to Secretary Vaughan. She accepted the tree on behalf of the Mayor and the people of the District of Columbia. She thanked the Ambassador not only for the tree which symbolized the strong friendship between the two capital cities but also for the much-appreciated involvement of the Norwegian embassy in the life of the District.

Norwegian songwriter/singer Ida Jens­hus was the musical highlight of the evening. She delighted the audience by singing two of her most popular songs, “Someone to Love” and “Sylvia.” Skyrocketing to fame after winning the NRK talent competition Lyden av Lordag in 2007, Jenshus became the first Norwegian solo artist to win the Norwegian Grammy equivalent for her first three albums and established herself as one of Norway’s leading country artists.

If you are not yet familiar with her extraordinary voice, go to YouTube and search “Ida Jenshus.” You will find numerous videos.

Then Davis asked Senator Murkowski to come forward to throw the switch to light the tree. She made a few brief remarks and emphasized that, because of Alaska, the United States can be considered, along with Norway, an Arctic nation. She added that Norway and Alaska have other commonalities, e.g., fjords, mountains that come out of the water, salmon, and oil.

The audience was very excited when the lovely 32-ft. tree was illuminated. In addition to the 20,000 lights and 600 tiny Norwegian and American flags, there were 1,500 sparkling CDs to reflect the tree’s theme, “Celebrating Norwegian Music.”

While the Carolers were singing their final song, Santa Claus suddenly appeared on the stage and invited the children to come up for their gifts. Davis encouraged the adults to mingle and to enjoy the refreshments, Norwegian ginger cookies and gløgg.

God Jul fra Norge!

This article originally appeared in the Dec. 11, 2015, issue of the Norwegian American Weekly.

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Christine Foster Meloni

Christine Foster Meloni is professor emerita at The George Washington University. She has degrees in Italian literature, linguistics, and international education. She was born in Minneapolis and currently lives in Washington, D.C. She values her Norwegian heritage.