You never get to see (or have time to) interesting things as much as when you have visitors. It makes you feel like a tourist in your own neighbourhood. My regular readers know my MIL is in Norway, and today we’ll take you to the Norwegian Museum of Cultural History. You have been there with me a couple of times before (please check the links at the end), but you always find new adventures at this museum. The Open-Air Museum features 155 authentic buildings from different national regions, like the from the 13th century, and sets the scene for entertaining activities all year. For this post I had to make a selection, so it’ll be Folk Dance and Bunad (regional folk costumes).

Many consider Norwegian folk music, song and dance traditions to be the most characteristically Norwegian arts of all. Traditional music and associated dances have withstood changing musical trends down through the years and stand today as a highly popular and dynamic cultural activity. This is one picture I took the day we where there:

Update: TorAa reminded me of that they are from Setesdal
– not Hallingdal as I first said!
– click to enlarge!

In contrast to many other countries, this type of music and dance never went out of style in Norway, and there is an unbroken tradition spanning centuries in much of the country. As a tourist in Norway, you may be in search of the exotic and somewhat folkloric image of folk music and dance with origins springing directly from a wild and mystical nature – a window into the Norwegian national soul. I hope you get a hint from the picture above.

In the pictures you see them in special folk costumes called ‘Bunad’. Its use has reached far outside folk dancing and folk music. Just take a look at my last post (scroll down one post!) about our National Day and you see plenty of them.
It is not possible to state accurately the number of different types of bunad in Norway, there may be around 200. At the museum we saw these to charming ladies and were allowed to take a picture:

The various bunads have their own distinct origin. Some of them are based on local customs dating way back, other models are reconstructions made in this century, relying on local and historical material. These ladies’ comes from Telemark, my home county! The interest for bunads started with the folk dance movement at the beginning of the 19th.

My niece in bunad at her confirmation a few years ago.
Also from Telemark as you can see, but without the jacket.

In the late 1800’s, there was a national romantic movement in Norway, due to the liberation first from Denmark and then from Sweden. Norway was searching for its own national identity, and the people had a desire to take care of everything genuinely Norwegian. Traditional folk costumes were commonly worn in the Norwegian rural areas. The people living in towns wore clothes much like that in other European and American towns. Interest in folk costumes increased as the culture and traditions of rural Norway were looked upon with nostalgia.

My blog friend Britt-Arnhild from Norway made a great post about bunad with more details as she prepared for the 17th of May. Go check by clicking here!

We explored a lot more at the Norwegian Museum of Cultural History of course, but I’ve decided to split it into two posts. So the next entry will be about a traditional soft Norwegian flatbread called Lefse and some rural houses – so stay tuned!


  1. OldOldLady Of The Hills

    What a wonderful post Renny. So informative and…AND, Beautiful. The Bunnads athat you showed us are gorgeous. And I went to listen to the Norwegian National Anthem and it is very Beautiful and quite stirring, too! Thank You for always teaching me something new about a country I reaklly knew very little about! The glpry’s of the Internet!

  2. Such beautiful clothes! It is true, one becomes a tourist again in your own town when visitors arrive.

  3. Another good post. I suppose the bunad is just like the various clan tartans here, from around the different parts of Scotland. Also we have Highland dancing. Must be a northern thing.

  4. Superb folk costumes! Are you dancing too, Renny?

  5. I lve the East Telemark bunad, as my family on my father’s side is from the same county as you. And my daughter Ingelin sure have one. After all, she grew up as neighbour to the museum you once again made a wonderful post from. And she even wear it in a wedding in India.

    btw. I do think the first picture might be of people in Setesdal bunad?

  6. Renny, it is amazing just how much you’ve shared with us about Norway ~ food, culture, pple etc.

    Hey…the tourism board should pay you a visit and engage you :D

    THANK YOU!!!! I love folk dance :)

  7. I love the poses you caught the dancers in, Renny. What a wonderful culture you live in.
    Your niece is so pretty, and what a beautiful costume!

  8. I always love the pictures that you post. I have a folder on my computer full on RennyBA photos! I email them to my Norwegian decendant relatives here in America sometimes.
    One cousin I have has traveled to Norway a few times.

  9. Very interesting post! The bunads are beautiful indeed. Over here in The Netherlands there are several places where (mostly elder) people still wear costumes daily.

  10. confessing7girl

    again ur photos r amazing!! ohh it kinda reminds me a bit of portugal with those tradicional costums!! really good!!

  11. rennyba,the clothes and accesories and shoes are all going to talk…

  12. This post had me thinking…is Bunad like Highlanders plaid?

    Very interesting to know. I have fun time going through archives and getting myself education about Norway.

  13. Very interesting post Renny. I’ll come back to read more about the museum culturel history! Identity is a very important think! I can understand because I love my Provence and my origins! It’s a real chance to live in a free land and in a democratie.
    The bunads are very, very nice.

  14. @OldOldLadyOnTheHills: I’m so happy you find it readable and something to learn and even inspired you to check the Anthem!

    @Lisa: It’s great to have MIL around (once in a while) you know:-)

    @Mrk: You have a point here – I like your kilt too!

    @Sidney: Sorry, not that good in folk dance :-(

    @TorAa: Woow, didn’t know you have roots in Telemark too cool! Bunad in India sounds like a great idea – your always nice dressed you know.
    You seams to be right about Setesdal – I’ll update – thanks!

    @Shionge: Your welcome – can do send the tourism board an endorsement:-)

    @Lisa: Glad you liked it. I think my niece is a crush too:-)

    @Karen! I’m honored. Come with your cousin one time then!

    @Tink: We often see your costumes at skating competition you know.

    @confessing7girl: Yes, I know you can find similar in most European countries.

    @Lws: good way of expressing it.

    @Shoshana: yes, read mrk’s comment!
    I’m glad you find it interesting and there will be more you know.

    @Claudie: I do agree, you really hit the nail on the head here!

  15. Captain Lifecruiser

    Sorry for being a bit late. Great post and photos. Love the bunads. We have a lot of different folk costumes over here in Sweden too, as you know. Though it’s more and more seldom people are wearing them – mostly in Dalarna, around Mora in the Midsummer festivities.

    I’ve been at another festival – the film festival in Cannes!!! Walking the red carpet…. *lol*

  16. What a delightful post! lovely folk costumes, so rich in decoration and details! I also get to know about Barcelona whenever we have visitors!
    Telemark is also a skiing style, does it have anything to do with your hometown? just curious…

  17. Sounds like such fun! Like you said, that’s one of the good things about having visitors … it’s gets you out doing touristy stuff you wouldn’t otherwise do.

  18. Because our time was very limited that one day in Oslo last year, Renny, we could only do a couple of excursions and DID go to he Open-Air Musueum. We saw the Stave Church there but we also saw women dressed in these bunads. All of it is still very much in my mind’s memory. So beautiful!

  19. :) Very informative!
    Do you have a bunad BTW? I think that Men’s bunad are really nice.

  20. Beautiful costumes on the dancers! Thanks for the “background,” it’s always interesting!

  21. Kathmandu Artist Club

    The Himalayan kingdom of Nepal the country of Mount Everest is recognized all over the world by its cultural heritage. Even though the country is very small it has cultural and geographical diversity. The country is melting pot of folklore and folk cultural. Every ethnic group has their own cultural, tradition, folk music, song and folk dances. It is very essential to preserve these traditional folk/classic music and arts in this modern age. This reality has been realized by a group of Nepalese artist and established an organization Katmandu Artist Club.

    The Club is registered as a non profit, non governmental organization with an aim of preserving and promoting the traditional folk music, song and dances of Nepal. To achieve this goal we are participating international cultural festivals and folk festivals. We are also organizing national and international cultural events in Nepal as well.
    The most of the promoter member of the club is senior folk artists of Nepal who have been participating and performing in various international folk festivals since last 15 years.

    To promote the traditional folk cultural among the Nepalese youth new generation we have been conducting the training center. More than 200 new young member of the Club have been learning about the folk and classical song, Music and the Dance of Nepal in our training center. Moreover our senior members are working as a Music and Dance Teacher in various schools.
    In our Club there are 8 – 15 years old children group also. We will perform all the classic and folk music, song and dances of Nepal. Therefore we are very intersting to participate in your Festival 2008.
    Thanking you

    Bimal Sherchan
    Kathmandu Artist Club
    Post box no 9815

  22. Pingback:Anticipating The 17th of May in Norway

  23. Pingback:No 17th of May without the marching band! « DianeCA’s Metamorphoses

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