Culture History

Norway’s National Day

Today – 17 May – is a very important day in Norway – it’s Constitution Day and the national day of Norway! In fact, 17 May is so important in Norway that people greet each other in the street with “Happy Birthday” (“Gratulerer med dagen”)!

After centuries of dominations by its Scandinavian neighbours, Norway became an independent nation in 1814 – the constitution was signed at Eidsvoll and came into force on May 17 that year. However, Norway entered in union with Sweden at that time, and the king was reluctant to celebrating this day. A few years later, celebrations were even banned. But, a few more years later, in 1833, poet Henrik Wergeland’s public address in conjunction with Constitution Day, marked the beginning of the traditions and celebrations which occur even nowadays on May 17 each year!

Children across the country are especially happy on this day! They get to walk in parades, which takes them through the communities and, they also get to eat as much ice-cream, sweets and hot dogs as they wish, starting even from breakfast! And speaking about breakfast – on this day the first meal of the day is indeed a special one, served with smoked salmon, eggs and fizzy drinks!

In Oslo, Norway’s capital city, the parades pass by the royal palace, where the royal family greets people from the balcony. The Royal Guard also performs on the main street of Oslo.

The Norwegian flag, showing the “Scandinavian Cross” is waved by all participants to the festivities, and can be seen everywhere in Norway!

Another important 17 May tradition is clothing: Norwegians wear a national outfit called “Bunad”. The Bunad’s different designs indicate where the outfit is from and people traditionally choose to wear a Bunad from where they come from.

Later, people’s parades follow, where sports clubs, and other businesses and organisations display their banners, together with marching bands to keep the celebrations going!

If you do visit Norway on this day, you’re in for a very special day indeed! And literally everywhere you go, every single place in Norway will be celebrating! So get ready and let’s say “Hipp hipp hurra for Syttende Mai!