Rift Grows Between Iceland and Norway Over Christmas Tree

A proposal from Oslo’s mayor to stop sending an annual Christmas tree to Reykjavik has sparked a furious reaction from Icelanders, many of whom have interpreted the move as a calculated snub.

“Fabian Stang, you have insulted an entire nation,” Tomas Frosti Sæmundsson, an Icelander living in Norway, wrote on the website of Norway’s Aftenposten newspaper. “I suggest you shove the tree up your whatever.”

Oslo Mayor Fabian Stang this month wrote to his Reykjavík counterpart Jon Gnarr suggesting that the 50-year-old tradition should be brought to an end and that instead of shipping a Christmas tree, Oslo should instead pay for one to be felled on Iceland itself.

“It is more environmentally friendly than transporting it over a long distance and the pine could be damaged during the long journey across the ocean,” Stang argued in an article in Iceland’s Morgunbladid newspaper.

However, the proposal triggered a somewhat frosty reaction from Gnarr.

“Sad. But what has Iceland ever done for Norway?” the mayor, a former punk musician, wrote on his Facebook page. “Well, we wrote their story and Heimskringla was the foundation for the independence of Norway in 1905. But who cares about some old books anyway?”

Stang’s press spokesman Rune Dahl told The Local that Oslo’s intentions had been misinterpreted in the light of the breakdown of talks between Iceland and Norway over mackerel quotas in March.

“Some mistook this as a political gesture: first we can’t agree to a mackerel quota and then we stopped sending the tree, and I think this and the upcoming election has been mixed together as a very strange view,” he told The Local. “People in Iceland have taken it personally, and the mayor in Reykjavik hasn’t done much to dampen the public anger.”

Dahl estimates that ending the tradition would save the council around 900,000 kroner ($150,000).

“It’s really a strange tradition to cut down a tree and send it by sea to another country, and also for the last few years there’s been problems with the shipping company,” he said. “It’s a question of cost.”

Oslo also plans to end the even more expensive tradition of sending a tree to Rotterdam.

“It’s a nightmare to Rotterdam,” Dahl explained. “First the tree is shipped to London and offloaded. Last year the Christmas tree in Rotterdam looked like it had been on a three-week bender.”

It plans to continue shipping a tree to London, however.

“The London tree will continue to be a priority,” Dahl said. “It’s an important thing. Everyone knows that the tree comes from Oslo. I think there were 10,000 people at the lighting ceremony of the tree last year.”

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