Tuesday 6 December 2011

Christmas tree

Last Sunday week I held hands with a stranger about my own age and hirsuteness as we sang Christmas songs and walked clockwise and, on the next verse, anti-clockwise, round the newly-lit Christmas tree in front of Oslo university. He said he'd been doing this for forty years. On the steps of the university a fine Salvation Army band played the carols for everyone to join in, a civic representative read the story of Jesus' birth from Luke's gospel, a local primary school choir sang their part, and my youngest grandchild got perilously close to the tuba. The whole of Oslo (it seemed) had gathered to celebrate the official start of the Christmas season and walk back and forth round the tree.

It was the sort of occasion which is becoming much rarer in Britain, I think, where people can be seriously and happily celebratory, without the need to be raucous or cynical or to turn everything into a joke. We had just one joke – from the mayor who, when the lights failed to come on at the right moment, commented that they were of a much greener variety this year!

At the end of a year in which Norway had to cope with the horrific, tragic events of 22nd July, it was good to see something profound surfacing, and people coming together to sing the older story.


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