The 17th of May – Norwegian Constitution Day – is celebrated all over Norway and around the world. Tromsø puts on a grand event with ‘the people’ being the focus of the day. Events happen from 7am in the morning with the flag raising and the laying of wreaths at particular memorial sites to commemorate those that have gone before us. On the main stage in the market square bands play until it is time for the first parade. Yep – there are five parades in total throughout the day – the scout parade, the children’s parade, the barnehage (toddler) parade, the Russ (graduating students) parade and the people’s parade!
To be out for such a long time and to maintain arm waving strength, it is important to start the day with some sugary goodness so you will have all the calories you need to last. Norwegian waffles are always on the menu on National Day. In the streets people line up for miles to get their fix from a waffle stall.
The city comes alive with colour – everyone wears bunad and it is wonderful to see the different patterns, embroidery and silver from each tradition. It’s tradition for girls to wear their hair down when in national costume and no matter how hot it gets woollen stockings are essential! I read in a section of an online newspaper a question directed towards the official national costume consultant. The person wanted to know what underwear you should wear with your bunad. The answer was – ‘nothing’! So that’s where the Scots got the idea from…lol.
After the children’s parade the people gather for the Tromsø song. The song, written in the early 1900’s by Carl Dons (1882-1949) is about the beautiful nature surrounding Tromsø and how heart warming it is to live in such a place.
The people’s parade starts at 4:30pm. Tromsøværinger (Tromsø folk) line the marching street four people thick. The police commissioner is the one who leads first in the parade followed by the Lord Mayor and other dignitaries.
They are usually followed by community groups such as the Tromsø Brazilian group, the UIT University student Union and asylum seekers from the Tromsø Mottakssenter (above), and other international groups that live in Tromsø. This year the British and German groups teamed up to walk together. The American group walked with a home-made banner that said ‘Happy Day from the USA!’.
Next to march along are the cultural and sporting groups in Tromsø. The Tromsø Swingklubb always makes an appearance. Not only do they dance the whole way but they also have to move progressively along to keep up with the music truck…lol! Very impressive.
Many bands (marching, Brazilian, Folk, brass etc) are scattered throughout the parade. Several of them played Fairytale throughout the march to celebrate Norway’s win in the Eurovision the night before. This year, because the weather was fantastic (usually it snows the night before leaving a slushy layer of frost), the folk bands thought it safe to come out to play. Folk bands are made up of accordions, guitars and fiddles which don’t go well in the wet. This band (below) had a novel way of getting their double bass player around.
The rescue services are always proud to march on Syttende Mai. The small dogs (above) are trained to find people in avalanches. They are small enough to crawl through piles of snow to get to the people trapped underneath. It was so sunny, and most of the snow has melted in Tromsø – I could hear the people asking the dog keeper ‘Is that real snow?’ Yes, of course it was!
The fire brigade are the last ones in the march. The people follow them to the town centre to the main stage for the national anthem and a speech by the Mayor followed by folk dancing and concerts.
Afterwards people have BBQs with their family, friends and neighbours. Many people go to the beach, or the park and others go to church gatherings. The day ends with good Norwegian food. Pølse med brød and bløtkake (hot dogs and cream cake) are always on the table and with the midnight sun nearly here we get to party all twilight til the sun rises again.