History / How To Celebrate...

How to Celebrate … Norwegian National Day

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Children’s parades, marching bands, traditional costumes, and ice cream, Norway’s National Day is a fantastic celebration…


Alexander Brett

Brazilians have their carnival, the Irish Saint Patrick’s Day. Norway has its national day, an annual celebration at home and abroad that commemorates the signing of their constitution in 1814. The Constitution of Norway was passed unanimously by the Eidsvoll Assembly on 16 May 1814 and signed into law the next day. While it did end a union with Denmark and opened up a new era of national freedom, the constitution did not give Norway its independence and, as Norway remained in a union with Sweden, festivities celebrating the constitution were banned for many years. The first public address on the constitution’s anniversary was held in 1833 and, from 1870, the day became a fixture, with the first children’s parade in Christiania (now Oslo), an initiative taken by the author Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson, who also wrote the national anthem, Ja, vi elsker dette landet. Norway achieved full independence in 1905, bringing in a Danish prince to act as its head of state.



 

Norway’s royal family wave to the parade from the balcony of the Royal Palace


While countries such as France celebrate their national day with military parades and rousing speeches, Norway’s national day is more similar to Canada and America’s by being primarily civilian in focus. Norwegians start the day with a large breakfast of smoked salmon and champagne, eaten with friends and neighbours. Dressed in bunads (traditional costume) and carrying several flags, they then take to the streets. Children’s parades take place in every town, city and village. Led by marching bands they walk alongside friends from school and local organisations, singing patriotic songs and eating hotdogs (pølse). In Oslo the parade (of over a hundred schools) travels up Karl Johns Gate, pausing at the foot of the Royal Palace to be greeted by the royal family and to sing the royal and national anthems. This parade is attended by around 100,000 people and is broadcast live on national and international radio and television channels.

The day is also celebrated by Norwegian expats abroad, with particularly large celebrations amongst immigrants in the American Midwest, Scotland and London, where a celebration takes place in Southwark Park.


 

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