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17th of May – Norway’s national day

Although 2005 was the centennial of Norway’s full independence, the country’s constitution dates back further. It was, in fact, adopted at Eidsvoll on 17 May 1814. The celebrations commemorating this event centre around the children, with school bands leading processions of children waving flags all over Norway.

The 17th of May celebrations vary from place to place, but usually follow a traditional pattern that makes this a children’s day. The highlight is the children’s processions, made up of school classes marching through the local community, led by the school band. Most of the children have their own small Norwegian flag to wave, and the route is lined with enthusiastic onlookers. After the procession there are games, entertainments and film shows, and plenty of hot dogs and ice cream.

Dress
Most people dress up in their best spring clothes, with a Norwegian flag or 17th of  May ribbon pinned on their lapel. It has become increasing popular to wear national dress – the bunad – on this occasion. There are many different forms of bunad from different parts of the country, and it is a magnificent sight to see so many national costumes at one time.

Food
May is the month when spring is in full swing in Norway, and this influences the menu chosen for the day. While hot dogs and ice creams are popular among the children, other foods that are often served are cured meats and sausages and the traditional sour cream porridge, and many people have barbecues. Desserts and cakes are also an important feature. Many schools and individual families give breakfast parties before the start of the procession.

The russ celebration – the end of 13 years of school
The 17th of May is also the day students in the last year of upper secondary school celebrate the end of 13 years of school. They call themselves russ, wear colourful overalls. High spirits are the norm and they generally have a lot of fun. They have their own processions with painted vans and busses decorated with slogans and jokes, and playing loud music.

17th of May outside Norway
Norwegians and people with Norwegian roots living abroad also celebrate 17th of  May. Many Norwegian seamen’s churches, embassies, student associations and other Norwegian institutions arrange 17th of May processions, receptions and parties.

History
Norway adopted its constitution in 1814, and it is this event that is celebrated on the 17th of May. The Storting, the Norwegian parliament, held the first 17th of May celebration in 1836, and from then on the 17th of May was regarded as the national day. The first children’s processions were arranged in 1870. Since 1906, the Royal Family have gathered on the balcony of the Royal Palace in Oslo to wave to the children marching by.

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A children's procession in Narvik.Photo: pf/mfa

Children in bunad with Norwegian flagsPhoto: hmkh/mfa

17th of May cakePhoto: Astrid Hals/ Opplysningskontoret for egg og hvitt kjøtt

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