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Norway’s Christmas tree will be a real ‘Scream’

Nothing says Christmas like existential angst, does it?

For the 16th year, the Norwegian Embassy is decorating the massive tree at Union Station as a gift to the American people. In the past, the tree has featured Norwegian flags and traditions. This year, the theme is Edvard Munch’s “The Scream” — 700 delightfully, perversely dark ornaments featuring that little shrieking man from Norway’s most famous art image.

A Norwegian Christmas ornament on display on a Christmas tree at Union Station. (Roxanne Roberts/TWP)

“In a way, it symbolizes all the angst in preparing for an excellent Christmas,” Ambassador Kare Aas told us Monday. “I, myself, have that feeling. I’m not the only one who wants to scream from time to time.”

And really, who doesn’t? But the theme, he told us, is not merely a statement on the meltdown of holiday spirit, but part of Norway’s promotion marking this month’s 150th anniversary of Munch’s birth.

“He’s been celebrated throughout the year worldwide,” Aas said. “It’s a reflection of Oslo’s increased influence as a cultural capital in Europe for contemporary art.” Aas, who was just posted to Washington in August, will preside Tuesday night at his first official lighting ceremony, where harried commuters and shoppers at Union Station will get their first look at the 32-foot tree.

Urd Milbury/ Royal Norwegian Embassy Urd Milbury/ Royal Norwegian Embassy

From a distance, all you see are the 20,000 lights, the American and Norwegian flags cascading up the tree and what looks like small, white icicles hanging from the branches. Upon closer inspection, they’re shiny, little screaming ornaments.

Did we mention they’re reflective? Not in a brooding, psychological way — actual reflectors, like the kind on jogging vests and other safety gear. In Norway, explained Aas, the winters days are really dark: 24 hours in the north; about 16 hours in the south. Parents routinely clip cute safety reflectors on their kid’s winter coats.

So the ornaments are both mildly disturbing and practical. But too depressing for this season of joy?

Nah, Aas told us. “Together with the lights, it will get some interesting attention.”


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Emily Yahr · December 2, 2013

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