Denmark had ruled Norway since the early 1500s but because they were on the losing side of the Napoleonic wars they traded Norway to Sweden. Norway took this opportunity to reclaim independence, signing their constitution on the 17 May to govern their country – however, the celebrations only lasted 10 days. Sweden was on the winning side of the Napoleonic wars and used their power to overthrow the Norwegian claim for independence. Norway was forced to enter into an agreement with Sweden which is known as The Personal Union of Sweden and Norway. It wasn’t until 7 June 1905 that the union was dissolved and Norway regained its independence. (However, Norway’s independence was not recognised by the Swedish king until October 26 the same year.)
Today the 17th of May is a national holiday and a celebration of Norwegian traditions and culture. The focus of the day is the Children’s Parade which takes place in cities, towns and villages all over the country.
In Olso the children march down the royal street and around the palace court yard as they wave to the royal family standing on the palace balcony. Everyone dresses in their best with red, white and blue lapel ribbons and waving Norwegian flags. Many wear Bunads – colourful national costumes. The day continues with concerts, BBQs, hot dogs, ice cream and folk dancing. The Kings Guards drill platoon put on an annual performance of drill marching every year for the public. They are known throughout the wrold for their precision and formation.
In smaller towns the celebrations continue with public parades showcasing local businesses, clubs and organisations. In some coastal towns the parade is on the water in boats. Traditional theatre and concerts entertain the locals and everyone comes to the town centre for the flag raising and national anthem. On TV you can see Norwegians all around the world celebrating in their adopted countries and communities with small parades or ceremonies and eating their sorely missed brown cheese.
The day is especially about family and enjoying ‘Norwegianess’. This is the first year our little Norwegian got to celebrate ‘Norway’s Birthday’ – wearing her first little Bunad. See her expression as she watches her first parade walk by…