17th of May – Norwegian Constitution Day

This very special day, brings a lot of good memories to me from my childhood. I remember the anticipation and the excitement begining the day before. The adults were busy cleaning the house, preparing the foods, ironing the clothes and the flags and I got butterflies in my stomach. It was hard to get to sleep at night, but I remember my mom’s trick: the faster you get to sleep, the faster the 17th of May will come!

The day started with a big bang. The salute for the day was detonated at 7AM on the hill behind us. I woke up floating over the mattress. I was never faster getting dressed and into my new clothes. This was usually the first day we could use summer shoes instead of the winter boots. The new white shirt and tie where hard to get on but dad always helped.

At 8 o’clock in the morning the flag is raised and the band is playing the National anthem: ‘Ja vi elsker dette landet’. The big day has started, almost as big as Christmas Eve and my own birthday!

Norwegian Constitution Day

17th of May is the National Day or ‘Grunnlovsdagen’ (Constitution Day), of Norway and is an official national holiday each year. The Constitution of Norway was signed at Eidsvoll on May 17th in the year 1814. The constitution declared Norway to be an independent nation. By historical coincidence 131 years later, the Second World War ended in Norway just nine days before that year’s Constitution Day, on May 8, 1945, when the occupying German forces surrendered. Even if The Liberation Day is an official flag day in Norway, the day is not an official holiday and is not broadly celebrated. Instead a new and broader meaning has been added to the celebration of Norwegian independence at May 17th.

The front of the parade – please click all pics to enlarge!

Children’s parades

All over Norway, children’s parade with an abundance of flags form the central elements of the celebration. Each elementary school arranges its own parade, led by the school’s own marching band. The parade takes the children through the community, often making stops at homes for senior citizens, war memorials, etc.

The Children Parade today and unfortunately in rain :-(

Typically a school’s children parade will consist of some senior school children carrying the schools official banner, followed by a handful of other older children carrying full size Norwegian flags, and the school’s marching band. After the band the rest of the school children follow with hand sized flags, often with the junior forms first, and often behind self made banners for each form or even individual class. I do remember my feet where sore after one hour marching, but that was part of the game you know:-)

Chilrdren waving the flags before the parade.

Nearby kindergartens may also have been invited to join in. As the parade passes bystanders often join in behind the official parade and follow the parade back to the school. During the parade a marching band will play and the children will sing the Norwegian national anthem, along with other marches with lyrics about the celebration of the National Day.

In addition to flags, people typically wear red, white and blue ribbons. Although a long-standing tradition, it has lately become more popular for men, women, and children to wear traditional outfits, called bunad. The children also make a lot of noise shouting “hoorah!”, singing and blowing whistles. In addition to children’s parades, there are parades for the public – often in the afternoon – where every citizen is welcome to join in. This is led by marching bands and often local boy- and girl scouts, local choirs, etc.

The 6 grader holding the speach for the day.

All parades begin or end with speaches. Both grown-ups and older children are invited to speak. After the parades, there are games for the children, and often a lot of ice cream-, soda-, candy- and hotdog-consumption. I remember we got some money from dad that day and could have as much as we wanted. No wonder this day was very special for the children:-)

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  1. Hi

    Thanks for commenting my blog. Hope you are having a good celebration “hipp hurra” from me in Dublin

  2. Hi there,

    Happy Norwegian Constitution Day!

    In 1814, we were fighting the British again, and, in fact, that year, they invaded Washington, D.C., and burned the White House. A strong rainstorm saved the rest of the city.

    I tip my glass to Norway.

    Perhaps you, more than many, know the precious vulnerability of freedom — having suffered so much under Nazi tyranny.

    May you enjoy and continue to guard your liberty.

    For many of us liberals here in America, this is a time when we are very worried about a string of abuses of power and attempts (some successful) to erode civil liberties by the Bush administration.

    However, we’re on watch, and many of us are challenging them, through the courts (one of the checks & balances set up to do exactly this). The American Civil Liberties Union is doing a lot of good work here on that front.

    God bless, Bud (an American friend)

  3. This is very nice to see that the children are all so involved. I teach elementary school and I wish we’d do something similar for Canada Day to instill more national pride but it is celebrated after school has ended for the summer.
    Canada, as a whole, needs to be more forthcoming with its pride of country. We are too shy and reserved to brag about ourselves. In the USA, everyone has flags at their cottages, on their boats, and at homes….not so in Canada.

  4. thanks for dropping by my blog :) this post is so inviting i felt like im in Norway while reading it :)

  5. Too bad it was a rainy day! It looks like fun all those parades. I am amazed at the crowds. A lot of people.

    Do you still consume a lot of ice cream, soda, candies and hotdogs during the Norwegian Constitution Day? ;-)

  6. Hi,
    Thanks for visiting my blog!
    And thanks for writing about norwegian tradition and culture on your blog! I haven’t been at home in Oslo to celebrate 17th of May since 2001 and when I saw that they had hoisted BIG norwegian flags around Federation Square here in Melbourne, Australia, I got very homesick…
    I’m definitely going to be there for my favourite norwegian holiday: JUL!
    Mmmmmm… ribbe…..

  7. I had so much fun yesterday in Bergen and will make a post right away about it. Next year probably I am going to buy a bunad since I find it so stylish love it!

  8. @Asgeir: Thanks for the greetings from Dublin. As a Norwegian, I hope you were celebrating too!
    @Buddy: Thank you for you’re comments and reflections! That’s what this is all about – to share and exchange thoughts and ideas. You’re contribution was great!
    @MotherOfInvetion: Thank you for you’re contribution too. This is a great way to learn from each other. I hope you are encorge by the Norwegians and take the idea with you to you’re class:-)
    @AnneKristine: I’m glad you caught the spirit!
    @Sidney: Yes, the weather wasn’t very good, but we had a blaste anyway as always and of course no one can sit inside on 17th of May. I defenatly consume as much as when I was young, but still got some:-)
    @Bjørnar: I’m gald you had some Norwegian flags in Austraila as well though. Welcome back home for Christmas then! Our food tradition is Pinnekjøtt :-)
    @Chas: Looking forward to read you’re post and even more, to see you in bunda next year! See you soooooooon:-)

  9. By the way, when can i meet you ? I am free around saturday morning until afternoon..

  10. i’d be excited because I would be out of school doing other things! But it does look like a cool thing to do. I’m just a bit interested because all of my ancestors came from the area.

  11. @Chas: Now you know and thank you so much for taking you’re time meeting me in person!
    @Expat T: Yes, there are roots from the vikings all over the world you know:-)
    @April: sorry, I did not specified, but this vid was taking with my Nikon Cool Pix S2 camera. and yes, we always have a great time on the constitution day:-)

  12. And to Buddy I say–many of us conservatives in America are very worried about the liberals’ choices for president. We see our freedoms slipping away.

    The 17th of May is the Norwegian Constitution Day. Like your constitution, ours is based on democracy, freedom and equality. I think that the US is in need of a change and its about time that minorities and woman are better represented in the government.

  13. Oh the children look like they are really having fun and that is despite the awful weather – I can see all those raincoats and all :( This is a nice way to involve the children in the knowing his country’s history. We have a norwegian child at work who came in with her traditional costume last Friday and brought her norwegian flag..it was cute.. she was going around all the classrooms saying “I’m Norwegian!, I’m Norwegian” (she’s three by the way – sweet )

  14. I enjoyed reading about the traditional holiday, I am a first generation American and can remember my parents talking about the 17th of May celebrations. I was never in Norway on that day buy we would attend smaller celebrations in the Chicago area. Unfortunately, those continue to get smaller,

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