17th of May – Norway’s National Day in Oslo

Talking about tradition, culture and habits, nothing is more Norwegian than 17th of May (‘Syttende Mai’ in Norwegian), our National day. Our constitution was signed at this day in 1814 and declared Norway an independent nation. Please read my post from last year to get the whole story and background!
Having my MIL from US visiting, we had the privilege of taking her to Oslo and giving her the feel of the real national atmosphere. I just love to take you with us, especially my fellow Cyber Cruisers (check the links at the end of this post!).

But let’s start with the beginning and what’s so special in the way Norwegians are celebrating this national day: the children’s parade:

Please click all the pics to enlarge!

All over Norway, children march through the local neighbourhoods with an abundance of flags and traditional costumes. 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. This picture is taking in our neighbourhood before we went to Oslo City.

In Oslo however, very many schools are coming together and parading up the main street, Karl Johan to the Royal Castle to greet the royal family as the national symbol they are. The King and the Queen with their family are on their balcony waving to each and every child passing by:

The parade starts at 10 and last for three hours. No wonder the Royal family feels very honoured but also rather exhausted. Then of course there is only one 17th of May each year, so they have a heavy program and among others they visit a different school every year who have prepared a special national day program, preformed by children of course.

Uranienborg elementary school founded in 1886

Another school – flag parade first.

Norwegian newer national history in a nut shell:
In the 14th century Norway, Sweden, and Denmark were members of the Union of Kalmar. In 1459, Sweden broke away from the Union and as a result Norway became closely linked to Denmark. During the 18th century, Danish control over Norway relaxed and at the end of the Napoleonic Wars, the Treaty of Kiel transferred Norway to Sweden. Norwegians refused to accept the change, as they wanted independence. The Swedish army invaded Norway, but thankfully an agreement was reached. On the 17th May 1814, the Norwegian constitution was written at Eidsvold, Norway. Norwegians were allowed to retain their constitution on condition that the Swedish king was to remain king of Norway. In 1905 the union with Sweden peacefully dissolved, and the Danish prince Carl (Haakon VII) was invited by the Norwegian people to become king. of Norway. Later, Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson continued Wergeland’s work. In 1870 he organized the first children’s parade, which remains the most important event on 17th May.

Russ – The revelling Norwegian high school graduates:
A report from the 17th of May in Norway without mention the Russ, would be a disgrace. They also add a colourful element in the celebration. You can read all about this special tradition in my post from last year by clicking here! They have now celebrated their graduation for a couple of weeks. Some are worn out, some are still going strong:

So by this I hope you’ve got a clue of what 17th of May is all about and what it means for the Norwegian people. You might call it a bit nationalistic, but I would then say in a nice and including way. Like my MIL said when we got back home; “We all felt like Norwegians today”.

Update #1:
My blog friend TorAa was in Oslo to celebrate Syttende Mai too. Please click here to see more pics and get the whole day from his perspective too! I would say: A thrill money can’t buy:-)

Update #2:
Caïla, a very good friend from Norway, living in LA, made a real good post about our Constitutional Day too and with great pictures. I do recommend you all to visit by clicking here!

As I said in the beginning, this post is a part of a cyber cruise. Read more about Lifecruiser cyber cruise and the Cyber Cruise Calendar 2007.