One of the things that I really love about Constitution Day in Norway is that it is a celebration about the future. Most parades I’ve been to are about remembering what once was, and especially those who lost their lives in war. Not in Norway. The 17th of May is centered around the children’s parade, the future and hope of Norway. Children are the star attraction, they are the parade, and in fact, the whole day is designed for them.
This 17th of May is Norway’s 200th anniversary of when the Constitution was signed. I expected there to be a whirlwind of celebrations to commemorate, but nope. The day will not be particularly special, it will be as it always has been for the last 100 years (when girls where allowed to join the parade); a children’s parade made up of children and their families.
Above: Lil’Red’s barnehagen class (kindergarten) – wall of flags.
In big cities such as Oslo, the people line the streets to watch and wave at the children in their school groups marching by. In smaller cities, such as Alta, everyone is in the parade and there are only a few tourists and grandparents watching. But Alta has an ingenious idea. So everyone gets to see the parade, we don’t have one, but two parades marching at the same time. One starts at the north end of the city, and the other starts on the southside. Halfway along the route the parades pass each other, so we can wave, cheer and enjoy each other’s parade before all meeting up in the city for closing speeches and band music.
Here you can see the two parades passing each other on each side of the E6.
Below: The beginning of the other parade waiting at the round-a-bout for our parade to pass through.
Food always plays a part in any Norwegian celebration, but the food tradition on the 17th of May is not what you might expect. There are no 10 course meals with seasonal delicacies that have been traditionally prepared for a feast after the ringing of the church bells. On a day when children are the feature, you don’t eat adult food. The day is filled will all the food children like to eat, and that means lots of pølse and is krem! (sausages and ice cream)
How to Eat Pølse Norwegian Style – post.
The 17th of May is the start of BBQ season. When the schools get together before and after the parade they put on big grill-fests. The pølse aren’t special in anyway, they are the run of the mill frankfurters you can buy everyday at the shop. They are usually eaten with a hot dog bun or lumpe (a soft flatbread) with ketchup and sometimes mustard. For drinks it is usually soda, and for a treat, an ice cream cone that is bought in a ready made pack such as a Cornetto, or Diplom-Is in Norway. Afterwards, families do their own thing for dinner; nothing particularly special or traditional, whatever floats their boat. BUT, cake is a must! Every Norwegian celebration has to have cake.
Berries are also a feature on the 17th of May, for cakes a desserts.
This year at our school celebration they will be serving lapskaus as a warm option. Even though the sun is usually shining, it does get a little cold on our 17th of May in the Arctic; we still have snow on the mountains. Some people like to have fancy meals at hotels but this is certainly not the norm.
17th of May food is very simple really, the bare basics, just like the children’s parade, and the whole day in general.
Gratulere med dagen!