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Syttende Mai, Norway's Birthday

Updated: Jun 27, 2022

Syttende Mai Oslo Norway

Gratulerer med dagen!

"Happy birthday Norway" is something you will hear all the time on 17 May in Norway, because this is the day that marks Norway's "birthday".

It started more than 200 years ago (on 17 May 1814 to be precise). Norway was part of the kingdom of Denmark-Norway but after a defeat in the Napoleonic Wars in 1813 Norway was ceded to Sweden. Not liking this the Crown Prince of Denmark-Norway started a Norwegian Independence Movement and in 1814 Norway achieved independence.

Of course, independence was a cause for celebration and Norwegians wanted to remember this special day for all time. So Norwegian Constitution Day was marked forever as a day of parades, celebrations and parties and gradually developed it's own traditions with special food and habits that we carry on and add to today.

Norway bunad Syttende Mai

You might think that as a "foreigner" in Norway I won't be celebrating, but the Norwegians have managed to make this day something that is incredibly inclusive. For all of us who live in Norway (Norwegian or not) it's a day of celebrating Norway itself. Maybe it's because you are Norwegian, or became a citizen or simply that you live here, but everyone is welcome to the party and actively encouraged to take part. It's a wonderful way to create solidarity with everyone here regardless of their nationality or background and I love that it's so judgement free.

I love the way that everyone comes together and tries their very hardest to make their space look beautiful. Towns clean up and decorate, flowers in the flag colours are planted, flags and bunting put up and bands rehearse for weeks beforehand. Schools and kindergartens practise their parades in the school playgrounds and pennant carriers are selected (a great honour). We get up early and get dressed up in bunad (national dress) or our best clothes and generally prepare for a day of fun, celebrations and of Norway itself.

For many of us this year there won't be parades in Norway and the parties will be much smaller, but we will still be celebrating with flags and making our towns beautiful. We'll still be dressing up and piling our buffet tables high with delicious foods that we save for Syttende Mai.

We will be celebrating with family and friends all over the world, because Syttende Mai doesn't end at Norway's borders.

Follow my next post to see how you can celebrate Syttende Mai your own way.

If you'd like to join in the discussion about Nordic living and how we are celebrating like Norwegians, join us in the Living a Nordic Life Facebook group. We'd love to see you there!

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