- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 2, 2004

A pop music idol and a “real live princess” helped bring a Norwegian Christmas to Washington’s Union Station on Tuesday. Princess Martha Louise, the oldest child of King Harald V and Queen Sonja, and Norwegian-born singer-guitarist Kurt Nilsen were featured attractions at a celebration honoring the many ongoing ties between that country and America.

So why were Swedish ginger cookies being served up to the crowd, many of them in colorful Norwegian sweaters and costumes?

And what about a 30-foot balsam fir grown in Minnesota, of all places?

Never mind, it’s all in the spirit of the occasion, the start of a free three-week cultural festival that is the largest one of its kind outside Norway, according to Norwegian Ambassador Knut Vollebaek, who spoke before a receptive public audience of several hundred standing around the tree in the station’s Main Hall. He was preceded by a leather-garbed member of the reindeer-herding Sami people from Norway’s far north, singing what is known as a “yoik,” or personal song, in his native tongue.

Sherryl Newman, the District’s protocol chief, was moved enough in her words of greeting to hail the VIPs present as “eminences,” a title normally reserved only for cardinals.

Princess Martha Louise, 33, currently a resident of New York, is notably not your usual royal, since she reportedly gave up her million-dollar allowance before marrying a somewhat controversial commoner and starting her own entertainment company.

“I can’t talk about this when I’m on official business,” she said when asked in a brief press encounter about her career. However, she did acknowledge without restraint that it was her first visit to Washington.

On the platform, she spoke suitably warm words about her temporary home — her father had lived in exile in this country during World War II — and smiled and smiled as she dutifully flicked a switch that illuminated thousands of tiny white lights on a tree decorated with strings of tiny Norwegian and American flags.

“We’re very proud of her; she makes her own money writing books and is becoming a performing artist,” said Harald Gaski, a professor of Sami literature at Norway’s Transo University, who was on his way to Greenland for a conference on minority cultures. “This is a detour,” the intrepid Norwegian noted.

Ann Geracimos

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