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Norway Spreads Holiday Cheer

The Norwegian Embassy will begin its annual six-week Christmas festival at Union Station next week. Much like past years, the program will feature a model train, a 32-foot Christmas tree and various concerts.

Tuesday will mark the launch of the 11th annual model train, signifying the beginning of the festival and the 2007 U.S. Marine Corps Reserve Toys for Tots drive. The train will run from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. through Jan. 6 and will showcase cars modeled after real Norwegian trains. There will be collection boxes for Toys for Tots at the station.

Norway presents the tree in honor of past help from the United States, said Norwegian Embassy spokesman Christian Hansson.

“It was inspired by something that Norway does in other cities around the world, and that is to erect a Christmas tree as a gift to the whole country as a thank you for the assistance received in World War II,” Hansson said. “It started with this holiday tree … and evolved into a large cultural festival.”

Will Steger, an explorer and proponent of climate change awareness, will light the Christmas tree at a Nov. 29 ceremony.

The festival also will feature three concerts, one of which will be a competition among students at the nonprofit Levine School of Music. Piano, string and vocal students from the school, which has several campuses in the area, will perform the music of Edvard Grieg for three judges to commemorate the centennial of the Norwegian composer’s death. Competitors will be required to give a performance from memory that must not exceed 10 minutes. The winner will receive a trip to Bergen, Norway, sponsored by the embassy.

Rounding out the program will be a photo exhibit of the Lofoten islands in northern Norway. The islands recently were named the third-most-pristine vacation islands by National Geographic Traveler Magazine. Norwegian food also will be offered at the Center Café in Union Station as a part of the holiday program.