The celebration of May 17th or Syttende Mai

Syttende Mai

In America we have the 4th of July, in Ireland, they have St. Patrick’s day and in Norway they have….. The Constitution Day! Or better known as Syttende Mai. Greeting each other by saying “Gratulerer med dagen” which translates to congratulations on this special day. This holiday is held on May 17th and it commemorates the signing of their constitution in 1814.The constitution declared Norway to be an independent kingdom in a successful attempt to avoid being ceded to Sweden after Danmark-Norway’s devastating defeat in the Napoleonic wars. Better yet, the celebration is of non-military nature accentuates the happiness that arises from the holiday.

This celebration isn’t like any other national celebration, It gave the country a reputation for being the best party throwers!!. Norway’s 17th of May is a party for everyone. Starting at  7am, champagne begins to be poured accompanied by scrambled eggs, salmon delicious fresh bread, and even cake! Then begins the parades of children holding banners and flags as marching bands follow. This tradition takes place across the country. Tens of thousands of people waving flags come to the parades. Pauline would attend the largest ones because her hometown is Oslo. Oslo being the capital has a parade route that passes the Royal Palace and the passer buyers wave to the royals on the balcony!

Interesting Fact: Yes! Norway has RoyalsIn fact, King Harald V and Queen Sonja have been ruling Norway since 1991!!!!! (follow this link for more)

It’s a tremendously joyous experience for those who are involved! Another wonderful aspect of this parade is the attire worn by the Norwegians. On this day the men and women of Norway get to show off their infamous “bunad”, also known as Norway’s traditional costume. They come in hundreds of colors and styles and each one indicates where in Norway the owner’s ancestors are from. Traditionally, the bunads are composed using local materials with different colors and embroideries, like seaweed for coloring and flower details in the designs. These costumes are invested in one time in each person’s life. Bunads are customized and very expensive and can run up an average cost of $4,00, because of this they are something that grows with you.

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There are basically no rules on this day and the youth take advantage of this. The teens of Norway tend to wear the less colorful tones of “red” and “blue”  and they’re demographic is known to start celebrating the 3 week period known as “russ”. They celebrate almost graduating school, and most have been planning for months the rager that begins with them staying up late with loud music, binge drinking, dancing in disco-buses, that they spend upward of $50,000 of their graduation money on. Above all this, they’ll expose private areas and accept wild dares earning “trophies”, this aspect of the celebration is best known for its chaos.

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If this holiday didn’t already seem awesome it will now. Syttende Mai is a crazy day for ice cream sales in Norway. And what goes better with ice cream than… hot dogs, waffles and cake? Well on the 17th of May they all do!  The most famous dish prepared on this day is called a Fastelavnsboller or Shrovetide Bun, which are sweet buns filled with custard, whipped or romance topped with icing.

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The celebration is increasingly becoming diverse and is celebrated by those with Norwegian heritage all over the world. Syttende Mai is all in all a day of expression and thankfulness. Taking the old traditions and values of freedom, with equality and nationalism as well as the ideological basis for their constitution all combined into one day. This is a holiday that really grabs the complete essence of the countries traditions and values. On the one side they keep traditional values with their apparel and flags and on the other side, they have the debauchery of “russ” and eating of ice cream and hot dogs. It’s a day of enjoyed by millions with so many aspects that really combine into such a joyous holiday. The combination of the old and new culture is what makes this celebration so unique. Pauline taught me a lot about her own experiences when I interviewed her and that’s why I was so interested in learning more about this Norwegian tradition and I hope after following these links and reading about some of the celebrations you will want to too.

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