The ceremonial cutting of a Christmas tree intended for London in 2009. Photo: Oslo City Council
"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.
"In recent years we have had problems transporting the tree from Oslo to Reykjavik by ship," he wrote in the letter on April 7. "This has encouraged us to investigate whether there are other ways of keeping this tradition alive."
He then suggests taking the tree from forests outside Reykjavik grown over the past 60 years with the assistance of Norwegian foresters.
"We wonder whether it might be possible to find the Christmas tree from Oslo to Reykjavik in Iceland," he wrote. "If the tree could be found and harvested in Iceland , the gift would also be more environmentally friendly than it is today."
A report by the secretariat of Oslo's city council estimated that stopping shipping the tree would save some 180,000 kroner ($30,000).
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?"
Relations between Iceland and Norway were already testy after talks over mackerel quotas broke down in March, making Norway an easy target for Icelandic politicians.
Oslo also plans to end the even more expensive tradition of sending a tree to Rotterdam, which has to be first shipped to London, then transferred to another boat for the trip to Rotterdam, by which time it normally looks a little tired and worn.
"Transporting the tree from Oslo to Rotterdam has been problematic in recent years, and the tree has ended up not looking good," Strang wrote in a letter to his Rotterdam counterpart Ahmed Aboutaleb on April 7. "It has come to my attention that last year’s tree was missing several branches at the bottom. We feel that this is embarrassing."
He suggested instead sourcing the Rotterdam tree from the Ardennes forest, where Amsterdam gets its own Christmas tree.
Stang has stressed, however, that Oslo is committed to continuing to send a tree to London.
"The London tree is a central part of Norway's history and a symbol of friendship with the British that we will do everything in our power to continue," he told Aftenposten.
Below is a cartoon from Iceland's Morgunbladid newspaper summing up how people in Rekyjavik are interpreting Stang's suggestion.