With his son off on an extended family holiday, King Harald decided to drop the royal tradition of taking an annual family photo this year. The king and queen maintained some other traditional holiday appearances, though, before heading to the hills for the holidays.
“There won’t be any traditional Christmas photograph session this year, because the Crown Prince and his family are out traveling,” Marianne Hagen, communications chief for the Royal Palace in Oslo, told newspaper Aftenposten.
Crown Prince Haakon and Crown Princess Mette-Marit pulled their children out of school in late November and headed off on what they claimed was a private expedition of sorts. They’ve already been in Turkey, Jordan and India but the palace wouldn’t say where they would be spending Christmas. They won’t return to Norway until mid- to late January.
Making the rounds
Back home in Norway, King Harald and Queen Sonja have been attending to royal duties in the crown couple’s absence, visiting, for example, a volunteer center in Drøbak last week that offers social services to area residents. This week, the queen was to visit an organization that helps the poor in Oslo, Fattighuset (literally, The Poor House).
After that, the king and queen were retiring to the royal timber lodge known as Kongsseteren in the hills above Oslo, not far from Holmenkollen. They were to be joined on Christmas Eve by their daughter, Princess Märtha Louise, her husband Ari Behn and their three daughters Maud Angelica, Leah Isadora and Emma Tallulah. They were all scheduled to attend church services at the Holmenkollen Chapel on Christmas Day.
The princess, who makes a living as a performer and spiritual adviser, also was poised to make her television debut in the US, leading a Christmas program taped at Vang Church in Hedmark. An English version of the program was due to air on PBS in the US on Christmas Eve and a Norwegian version in Norway on Christmas Day.
The program has been organized for several years by Mari Silje and Håkon Samuelsen, a sister-and-brother musical pair who grew up in Hamar. They arranged their first concert at the octagon-shaped church from 1810 six years ago and it now attracts top-rated musicians including Canadian soprano Measha Brueggergosman this year and the Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra.
The princess, who has sung in a gospel choir herself, said she only participated in the “all sang” at the end of the program and otherwise would talk about Christmas traditions in Norway, how Norway sends large Christmas trees as gifts to many cities and how her own royal family spends Christmas.