Thursday, May 17, 2012

Norway’s National Celebration Day


The Constitution of Norway was signed at Eidsvoll on May 17 in the year 1814. The constitution declared Norway to be an independent nation.

I remember the very first time I was witnessing the celebrations in the city of Molde. Coming from Germany I was not accustomed to such an open show of National pride, and I was deeply impressed. May 17 is the time when the first green leaves are showing on the birch trees. After a long winter spring is coming and with that thousands of red, blue and white flags are showing up on may 17.

The Eidsvoll Building where Norway’s
Constitution was signed in 1814

The celebration of this day began spontaneously among students and others from early on. However, Norway was at that time under Swedish rule and for some years the King of Sweden and Norway was reluctant to allow the celebrations. For a couple of years in the 1820s, King Karl Johan actually forbade it, as he thought the celebrations a kind of protest and disregard—even revolt—against Swedish sovereignty. It was, not until 1833, that anyone ventured to hold a public address on behalf of the day.

After 1864 the day became more established, and the first children's parade was launched in Christiania, in a parade consisting only of boys. It was only in 1899 that girls were allowed to join in the parade for the first time.


By historical coincidence, the WW2 ended in Norway 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 Constitution Day on May 17.

The day focused originally on the Norwegian constitution, but after 1905, the focus has been directed also towards the royal family.

DSC_0102-mi A noteworthy aspect of the Norwegian Constitution Day is its very non-military nature. All over Norway, children's parades with an abundance of flags form the central elements of the celebration. Each elementary school district arranges its own parade with marching bands between schools. 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 greet 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 "Ja, vi elsker dette landet" (Yes, we love this country) and the royal anthem "Kongesangen".

Norwegians are known to celebrate their day where ever they are in the world. A very known place for celebrations is New York City.

May 17 in India

May 17 in Perth, Australia

May 17 NYC

May 17 in Portland, OR



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  1. Very interesting post, I hadn't known about this holiday before! It's nice to see countries with such national pride, and its citizens celebrating all over the world.

  2. Excellent post thanks for informing us this day of celebration. Enjoy your celebrations.

  3. It's so much fun to learn about other countries and their celebrations. Gives us even more reasons to party.

  4. Thanks for the history lesson. I am from a Norwegian background but don't remember my grandparents ever celebrate this day so it was fun to learn about. I loved my grandfather but he was definitely a grump old Norwegian-American farmer and I am not sure he celebrated much of anything

  5. Thanks for the Norwegian history lesson - great post.


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