May 17th – Norway’s Constitution Day
Today, May 17th, is Norway’s National Day. It is celebrated all across the nation, from the largest community to the smallest, with parades, bands, flags, national costumes, festival services and festivities with everyone taking part, marking the day in 1814, when Norway adopted its new Constitution.
In the nation’s capital, Oslo, the children’s parade is the main attraction, with all the city schools represented, 111 in all, each headed by the school’s banner and brass band.This unique parade has become a world attraction, and each year thousands of visitors from all over the world come to watch. A few have been fortunate to obtain special seats set up in front of the Royal Palace, mainly reserved for diplomats and special guests.
The long parade march up Oslo’s main street, Karl Johans gate, to the Royal Palace, where they are received by the Royal Family standing on the front balcony, waving to the crowd. (Picture)
The school children of the municipality of Asker just outside Oslo however, are particularly favoured on May 17th. Early in the morning, Crown Prince Haakon and Crown Princess Mette-Marit greet the youngsters as they parade past the Royal Family’s country home at Skaugum. The couple receive flowers from two of the children. This has been a tradition for many years.
After several years of celebrating the Constitution Day attending a festive performance at the National Theatre in Oslo, the King and the Queen have the last few years changed this tradition by instead visiting other parts of the capital and nearby communities. This year they visited the Oslo city ward of Nordstrand.
With all of the important outdoor festivities, the weather is very important on this day, and the whole nation watches the weather forecasts days in advance, with joy or dismay as the case may be.
This year most of Norway face the threats of showers, with some glimpses of sun in the south and south easst. Morning temperatures range from 10 degrees Celcius in the Oslo area to just above freezing in the northern counties. On the Arctic Svalbard archipelago minus 6 was recorded.
Norwegians abroad on this day are also sure to gather and celebrate Norway’s birthday, be it at an embassy, a mission station, private arrangements, or not to forget the 32 Norwegian Seamen’s churches around the world.
Most places there will also be parades, festival services, speeches and activities for the children, as well as coffee and the beloved Norwegian waffles.
In many cities and towns in the US, Australia and other countries where there are large enough communities of Norwegians or people of Norwegian descent, old traditions with parades and festive gatherings are still kept, although with celebrations often moved to the nearest weekend.
Five Norwegian scientists celebrate a very different 17th of May this year. They are posted at the Norwegian research station “Troll” in the Antarcitc, where winter reigns, with minus 30 degrees Celcius in the dark Polar night.