Brazil has its carnival and Ireland has Saint Patrick’s Day. Norway’s counterpart is of course May 17, which is celebrated in memory of the signing of the Norwegian Constitution on that day in 1814. The day is marked with an enormous effort that is unparalleled in Norway’s party calendar .
Unlike countries celebrating their national day with military parades, May 17 is a real folk party, especially for the children. The day usually starts with a special May 17 breakfast , often in the form of partying with neighbors and friends. It is usually offered on freshly baked bread, scrambled eggs, smoked salmon, and champagne for the adults.
Then it’s time for the children’s parades . They are organized throughout the country and go through the city led by a music band. The largest parades attract tens of thousands of people waving Norwegian flags and shouting cheers! In Oslo, the royal family is present and waving to the crowds.
Does it sound nationalistic? Maybe, but the peaceful, cheerful atmosphere and children’s special place in the celebration makes the spectacle a largely uncontroversial event. It is mostly about hot dogs and ice cream, speeches in town and games at schools .
In honor of the day, many people take the opportunity to show off their “costumes”, Norway’s traditional folk costumes. There are hundreds of variants in different colors and styles that tell you where the person in question originated from.
Significantly less colorful are the red or blue overalls worn by the so-called “Russians”, the high school students who have already started celebrating that 13 years in school are soon over. Many of them look pretty worn out on May 17, and it’s probably not because they sat up and studied the night before.
The Russians organize their own parades in buses and vans with expensive and quite loud sound systems. Ask for their “Russian card” and you will see a handmade business card with more or less funny jokes.
If you are in Norway in May, we definitely think you should take the opportunity to celebrate with the locals. Most shops and offices are closed on May 17, and if you plan to go to a restaurant, you should book a table in advance .
If you have the car with you, it is good to know that it can be difficult to get into traffic , especially in the cities.