A weekend in…

Cel­e­brate 17 May

- Lifestyle · Celebrations · Oslo · Norway

If you’re for­tu­nate enough to visit Oslo on 17 May any given year, you’re in for an ex­pe­ri­ence like noth­ing else. Whether sunny, rainy or snowy, this is the one day of the year when Nor­we­gians all dress up in their na­tional cos­tumes, grab a Nor­we­gian flag, and head out­side to cel­e­brate Nor­way’s Con­sti­tu­tion Day. Nor­way’s con­sti­tu­tion was signed on 17 May 1814, and this has been a day for cel­e­bra­tion ever since.

17 May is mainly the chil­dren’s day, and in ev­ery city, town and vil­lage in Nor­way, chil­dren and march­ing bands pa­rade down the streets wav­ing flags, chant­ing, and singing songs about love, free­dom and Nor­way. Oslo has the big­gest pa­rade, con­sist­ing of se­lected schools, last­ing sev­eral hours and fill­ing the city with life and colour. The high­light of the pa­rade is when it passes by the Royal Palace, where the royal fam­ily spends the day greet­ing the chil­dren from the bal­cony. Nor­we­gian TV live broad­casts the cel­e­bra­tions from ev­ery cor­ner of the coun­try, from the tini­est fish­ing vil­lages to the largest cities.

Schools tend to have their own cel­e­bra­tions once the pa­rade is over, with games, food, en­ter­tain­ment and com­pe­ti­tions for the pupils and their fam­i­lies to en­joy. The day is also the cul­mi­na­tion of the month-long grad­u­a­tion cel­e­bra­tion of Nor­we­gian ‘videregåen­de’ pupils (fin­ish­ing the equiv­a­lent of high school), known as ‘russe­feir­ing’, when they don cos­tumes in colours re­flect­ing their par­tic­u­lar school or field of study. Russe­feir­ing has been a tra­di­tion since 1905 but is con­tro­ver­sial due to public dis­tur­bances, health risks and other prob­lems linked to al­co­hol con­sump­tion and drunk­ennes. It’s also re­garded as prob­lem­atic due to tak­ing place just be­fore the fi­nal ex­ams, lead­ing some stu­dents to party their re­vi­sion days away. Still, the ‘russ’ are a tra­di­tional part of the city streets on 17 May, and once the chil­dren’s pa­rade is over, the russ take over with loud mu­sic and party time in ‘rus­se­to­get’, their own pa­rade, show­ing off their cars, vans, buses and other ve­hi­cles re­built and re-dec­o­rated to match their group­ings, schools and squads. In the dis­tricts and vil­lages, you might even see a ‘russe’ trac­tor or two.

Mostly, this day is about fam­ily, friends and chil­dren, and it’s im­por­tant to know that on 17 May, you’re al­lowed to eat as many ice creams and hot­dogs as you want!


Most Nor­we­gians have the day off, so the day is spent with fam­ily or friends, and often be­gins with a tra­di­tional Cham­pagne break­fast. It usu­ally con­sists of a lit­eral smor­gas­bord, known as ‘koldt­bord’, filled with good food, fruit, waf­fles, juices and, of course, Cham­pagne. Every­body wears their nicest clothes, whether it’s a Nor­we­gian tra­di­tional ‘bunad’ or other pretty but weather­ap­pro­pri­ate clothes.

Once you’re stuffed, it’s time to head out­side and find a good spot for the pa­rade. For­get driv­ing – al­most all the streets in cen­tral Oslo are closed off on 17 May to make way for pedes­tri­ans. Opt for public trans­port or walk.

Cel­e­brate with the chil­dren. The pa­rades are full of songs, chants and cheer, often in a call-and-re­spons fash­ion. Learn the words and join in the fun!

Af­ter the pa­rade, it’s time to find a place to eat, un­less you’re vis­it­ing or host­ing a party at some­body’s house. Most places don’t ac­cept reser­va­tions on 17 May, so queu­ing might take time un­less you’re lucky or head a lit­tle bit out­side the city cen­tre. As a worst-case sce­nario, opt for ice cream – it’ll be avail­able ev­ery­where and of­fi­cially counts as food on this spe­cial day.

If cel­e­brat­ing at home, an­other smor­gas­bord is usu­ally ap­pro­pri­ate. Din­ner is typ­i­cally light, with cured meats, sour cream por­ridge, sand­wiches, omelettes, hot dogs, and cakes with lots of whipped cream and berries.

Wear your Nor­we­gian or Sami flag at all times, but make sure never to point it down­wards or let it touch the ground – and don’t dis­re­spect it. Nor­we­gians take their flag very se­ri­ously, and it’s never on dis­play un­less it’s a so-called flag day. Even on flag days, there are pro­to­cols as to when the flag is al­lowed to fly. It’s al­lowed to be raised from 8am but should al­ways be low­ered at ei­ther sun­set or 9pm, which­ever comes first. The north of Nor­way has dif­fer­ent times to ad­here to, as greater parts of the day are dark.

When the day is over, drink lots of wa­ter and put your feet up. They will be sore, and you will be de­hy­drated.

 ??  ?? © As­geir Helges­tad
© As­geir Helges­tad
 ??  ??

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK