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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.

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  1. Happy Syttende Mai, Renny! :-)

    I enjoyed the pictures and the history lesson.

    Have a great rest of the week.



  2. We’ve always heard over here in Sweden that you are so much better than the Swedish people to celebrate the national day :-)

    We’ve only seen an increase of the celebration in Sweden the last years, but I doubt that it will be any big increase.

    I think we shall, because I’m really Royalistic and Nationalistic. I like it when all countries keep their own culture and habits and not mix things up too much, because I want to explore them :-)

    Perhaps a bit selfish of me… *s*

  3. belated Happy National Day,Renny!!
    I love the children`s parade!!

    and the graduates look lively and colourful.I remember my school days,during international day,we had this parade for Ms and Mr.I was chosen as Ms Vietnam,lol!but the costume of Ms Norway ws the best and became the champion.and now,im seeing the real Norwegians,not only in costume but the real tradition.

    thans for sharing,Renny!have a nice weekend!!

  4. oh nice pics! looks like fun! glad you enjoyed it…

    am here from the queer chef’s site… got pimped here.

    and thanks for dropping by my site and leaving a ‘not spam comment’… hehehe!

  5. And you had such a beautiful, sunny day to celebrate this important date. National pride shouldn’t be mistaken. It’s wonderful to keep traditions, it’s interesting and fascinating to learn about other countries and cultures. Moreover, it is very special to learn about them through a fellow blogger! Beautiful parade!

  6. Again, a very interesting day and I like what your MIL said. To feel like this means Norway put on a great display. Does each school have a band or is it just the older high school kids?

    Do your King and Queen rule strictly over Norway or does another country share them?

  7. @DianeJ: Thanks – glad you liked it all!

    @mrk: Yea, what blogging is all about, isn’t it!

    @Lifecruiser: Yea, I think we beat you there – at least:-) So in the way: look to Norway!

    @Ghee: Thanks! So was it this Norwegian girls national costumes: ‘bunad’ that made the different then? I’l make a post about it in the weekend – so stay tuned!

    @andianka: Thanks and always great to welcome new readers!

    @Mar: The weather was perfect! and I do agree: Blogging connecting people you know!

    @MotherOfInvention: Mostly each elementary school has their own band.
    Our King and Queen is just for Norway. Sweden has their own and Denmark has their Queen Margrethe.

    @Ginnie: I’m glad I can learn you some from my county and our culture you know:-)

  8. Great post Renny. Did you realize, we were only a couple of meters from each other? I can tell from the pictures. Your MIL was not the only american around. I met several, and Swedes, Danes,Finns, Italiens, Frenchmen, Several Asians – and together with all the children in the Parade and their parents, it was like the whole world was gathered in Peace on this fantastic, Sunny Day.

  9. Such beautiful photos! A three hour parade? No wonder they are tired. :-) Thank you for sharing this with us Renny.

  10. Gratulerer med dagen (TorAa taught me that)

    Between the two of you this was a wonderful education for the rest of us. Thanks also for the mini history lesson, i so appreciate that. the children’s parade looks like such a special time and a much lovlier way to parade than some of the ones i see in our hometown for our independence day (endless politicians marching and waving and handing out pencils…bleh….let me see bands and kids any day)

    really wonderful, and if you don’t mind passing this on to Tor, I’d appreciate it. for some reason I could not comment at his blog.

  11. Happy National Day Renny! How very informative! I’m loving learning about your culture. The pictures from the kids are too precious and what a blast the older kids must be having with Russ. :-D

  12. A very nice day for all Norwegians
    and people who participated!
    I learn a lot today about your historia and constitution. We have learnt so many things at school and forget after the exam! I admire all lands who knew in time keep their king but I think we could have here in France do the same thing if the royal family of France had accepted a Parliamentary power and not a Absolute power as Montesquieu was recommended it. (Sorry for my poor english!)

  13. Interesting and informative post. My husband enjoyed looking at your photos. He put out the Norwegian flag on the evening of the the 16th so it would be up for the holiday. I’m sure the neighbors have no clue but it gives them something to wonder about :)

  14. Renny that’s an excellent post, glad to learn something about Norwegian tradition. Thanks alot!

  15. What beautiful costumes and festivities. It looks like you had perfect weather – it shows in the wonderful photos. Happy National Day!

  16. It doesn’t seem strange at all to me because in Belgium it’s exactly the same only the date is different 21st July. But then I could take your text lol ! Belgium was also founded a little later in 1831. But we also have King, Queen and their children present for the parade and the whole country is in emotion ! Last year I published a report about the celebration in Waterloo. And here every house has his flag hanging out but also non belgians (such as myself) who live such a long time here do it or put it together with the flag of their home country.

  17. A nice event (again). You seem to have as much “fiestas” as we have in the Philippines! ;-)

  18. Since I am shorter than most Norwegians who were all lined up along the streets of Karl Johan, I couldn’t see those cute kids marching towards the Palace. But the nationalistic pride of Norwegians was just overwhelming that day. I enjoyed my first 17th of May!

  19. Here’s a different perspective…

    What I see is unity, pride and flow from everyone.. Everyone has integrated into society celebrating for the country they now live in..

    You don’t see this in North America. Everyone is segregated wether or not you like to admit it..

    I think this unity is throughout the European states and that is really why I miss things like this.

    It will never exist here..

    Great post as always…

    Stay tuned for a great announcement from me (by tomorrow).. hehe

  20. What a glorious Day Renny, and so very colorful, too! It is such a pleasure to get to know a tiny bit of history about Norway through your eyes and your Camera’s Eyes…(Yours, still, yes?) I was over at TorAa’s and saw his pictures, too! You know I have spent more time in Norway—through you and TorAa and Charles in this last year than I have in my whole life! This is the amazing thing about the Internet, and Blogging, in particular! Thanks so very much Renny, fot sharing Norways most important day!

  21. To all: I’m overwhelmed very pleased about your comments which I think enriches the post and the subject – thanks!

    @Tor: So you where breathing on my neck:-)
    Yea, the idea is to start with the children to make room for peace in the whole world you know!

    @Fleur de Lisa: Glad you liked it!

    @Lime: Glad you got to learn something new about Norway and I do agree; lets empowering the children with the band:-)

    @Maribeth: Thanks – glad you liked it too!

    @SwordGirl: Thanks and glad you learned something new too – welcome back for more!

    @Claduie: Glad I could refresh your memory then!
    I know France was an old, traditional Kingdom in the past:-)

    @Hexe: Great habit you have there – keep it up!

    @J.LyonLayden: Thanks and welcome back to learn more:-)

    @DesertDiva: Thanks for your compliments – there will be more about these costumes tomorrow.

    @Gattina: I know you have a rich Kingdom history – thanks for sharing from yours!

    @Sidney: I do agree and you capture them in a great way too! Go visit him everyone to see breath taking pics!

    @Duke: Hei og Takk:-)

    @Mark: You should sit on Knut’s shoulder next year! Glad you had such a great experience at your first:-)

    @ET: A very substantial comment ET and you are so observant! Thanks so much for sharing your perspective!

    @OldOldLadyOfTheHills: Thanks my regular visitor blog friend and I’m flattered since you pay us so much attention. You know I love to read about your perspectives from The Hill too!

    @Britt-Arnhild: I think my mom would say the same LoL

  22. Well we had a lovely weather here in Bergen during 17th of May but I stayed home since I was uber tired from filming

  23. Renny,

    I love Norwegian Constitution Day – we celebrated it together last year on my blog, remember?

    Hey, that kids parade is soooo cute. They all look so proud to be getting some well-deserved attention.

    Norway is on my list of nations to visit someday — for the beauty and the people but also because so much history happened there, especially during WW2. Great, proud tradition of resistance to the Nazis.

    FYI, my clan history from Scotland (where my ancestors came from) offers some interesting info about Don Munro, clan chief, and your part of the world. Read on. I apologize in advance for any strife our clan may have caused:

    The clan under chief Donald Munro, son of O’Ceann were granted lands in Rosshire and a seat at Foulis Castle as a reward for helping King Malcolm II of Scotland to defeat Viking invaders from Scandinavia.

    It is also said that the Munros fought in support of Alexander III of Scotland against the Norwegian forces of Haakon IV of Norway at the Battle of Largs in 1263 and as a result had all their lands in Ross-shire confirmed to them by the King.[1]

  24. Happy National Day Renny and thank you for sharing the celebration. I love the colours :D

  25. hmm, didn’t know about that. Cool. nice pictures and was fun to see all those people holding the flags :) Shouldn’t the crowd be bigger though?

  26. happy independence!

    you MIL had a perfect timing in going there. nice pictures. your country is really proud of the children :)

  27. Norway is so close and I still haven’t been, will have to fix this. glad you had a good day

  28. Great post! Particularly useful, as I haven’t travelled in Europe and want to rectify that with a vengeance during the coming years. My first time in your blog, but I expect to come back often now!

  29. Thanks for stopping by my blog. Facebook is addictive though… Great pictures… Thanks.

  30. if u r not a teacher u def hv the soul of a great teacher… sneaking up on us with some history culture while reading a fun post!!:D

  31. Hi Renny,
    Hey I am digging the new format. Nice work. Now…if only I could find the time to shake up my site a bit. – Bud

    Glad you liked my new blog home – yea, it take some time but I feel it’s worth it:-)

  32. Here in Seattle we’re getting ready for our annual Syttende Mai Celebration in Ballard, the historic Scandinavian community. We have one of the largest parades outside of Norge and have been commemorating this day in Seattle since 1889. We are excited to have Hanne Krogh as our Grand Marshal this year. We celebrate with our kindred countrymen. Hoorah for Syttende Mai!

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