May 15, 2008
Norwegian Day observed with flags and parades
By our reporter

The Norwegian Constitution Day is the National Day of Norway and is an official national holiday each year. Among Norwegians, the day is referred to simply as Syttende Mai (meaning May Seventeenth), Nasjonaldagen (National Day) or Grunnlovsdagen (Constitution Day), although the latter is less frequently used. The day focused originally on the Norwegian constitution, but after 1905, the focus has been directed towards the royal family.

The Constitution of Norway was signed on May 17 1814 and declared Norway to be independent of the Swedes.
Norwegian nationalistic aspirations in 1814 were frustrated by Sweden’s victory in a brief, but decisive war that resulted in Norway entering into a personal union with Sweden. The Norwegian constitution was largely kept intact, allowing for an independent Norwegian state with its own parliament, judiciary, and executive powers. Foreign relations were, however, conducted by the king through the Swedish ministry of foreign affairs.

The day is usually observed by organizing children’s marches. After 1864, the day became more established, and the first children’s promenade was launched in Christiania.

All over Norway, children’s parades 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 of senior citizens, war memorials, etc. The longest parade is in Oslo, where some 100,000 people travel to the city centre to participate in the main festivities. This is broadcast on TV every year, with comments on costumes, banners etc, together with local reports from celebrations around the country. The massive Oslo parade includes some 100 schools, marching bands, and passes the royal palace where the royal family greets the people from the main balcony.

During the parade a marching band will play and the children will sing lyrics about the celebration of the National Day. The parade concludes with the stationary singing of the national anthem.

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, blowing whistles and shaking rattles.

By historical coincidence, 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 on May 17.