Christmas Controversy: Two Kinds Of ‘War On Christmas’ Incidents Hit Norway

Christmas controversy has struck Norway after what is seen as a “War on Christmas” incident that has surprised parents at a school in suburban Oslo.

According to The Local, Lesterud School sent permission slips home with students to ask parents if their children would be allowed to sing Christmas carols while dancing around a Christmas tree. This is a common Christmas tradition in Norway.

An official at Lesterud, Gry Hovland, stated that the school is following guidelines set out by Norwegian Directorate for Education and Training. Those guidelines are influenced by the European Court of Human Rights urging EU schools to be “especially cautious” when it comes to religious activities involving kids.

“We interpret going around the Christmas tree, which includes singing Christian songs, as an event that tends toward religious content. We want to protect ourselves and not cross any boundaries. That’s why we ask parents and guardians to give permission to go around the Christmas tree.”

One parent, Karianne Haug, was upset that all students would need a permission slip to take part in a Christmas tradition that is part of the culture of Norway.

“It’s fine to ask [for one’s child] to be exempt from the religious service, that has worked fine for years, but to have to check off permission to dance around the Christmas tree? What will be next? Where is the limit for how many considerations we should take? Who makes these considerations, and for whom?”

Ms. Haug further explained that she believes that the traditions of Norway are important for families and deserve to be preserved.

“Norwegian traditions are important, that’s how I see it. We live in a society with rapid changes and families that are splitting up. Traditions help to protect our children. I think it creates a problem if all students, regardless of their beliefs, can’t gather around the Christmas tree – how harmful can it be?”

These sorts of incidents, where traditional cultural preservation meets head-to-head with political correctness and multicultural accommodation comes at a delicate time for Norway as the country finds itself inundated with refugees fleeing Syria, most of which are Muslim. That migration to Norway has fueled considerable anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim sentiment, and has been further helping the political far-right to gain ground in the country, much like has been happening in France.

Earlier this year in Norway, the Local reports that there was another backlash when the Norwegian Directorate of Immigration ordered that rooms being offered to refugees and asylum seekers have any Christian symbols removed, including crosses and images of Jesus to create a “religion neutral” environment.

Because many of the sites offering temporary accommodations in Norway are Christian community centers, there was some anger over the demand, especially at the Evidence of Faith center in Kvinesdal which was expected to host up to 1,000 refugees. Although some Christian centers complied with the order, the Evidence of Faith center’s leader, Rune Edvardsen, said they would not be complying.

“The hall was built by Christians who wanted to spread the word of God. To remove the cross from the hall would be like remove the rose from the Labour Party [Arbeiderpartiet]. It is a thought of no interest.”

Meanwhile, in another Christmas controversy, this one involving a different take on the “War on Christmas,” the government of Norway came under criticism after a picture of gingerbread cookies being made in the shape of F-35 fighter jets was put up on the official government Instagram page. The planes were recently purchased by the government of Norway, and the cookies were meant to commemorate this.

According to the Ottawa Citizen, some who saw the picture were offended by the association of tools of war with Christmas. The government of Norway quickly removed the picture and issued an apology regarding their Christmas controversy and “War on Christmas” mishap.

[Feature image Sean Gallup/Getty Images]