Norway ‘closes’ for holiday weekend

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As Norwegians headed into an unusually long holiday weekend on Friday, many were stocking up in advance. The country’s state-run liquor stores (Vinmonopolet) were due to close at 6pm on Friday , for example, and won’t re-open until Wednesday morning.

Oslo's main boulevard that leads up to the Royal Palace, called Karl Johans Gate, was once again full of folks on Friday as the traditional parade marched up to the palace to greet the royal family who, true to tradition, waved from the balcony. PHOTO: newsinenglish.no

Norway’s Constitution Day celebrations on Tuesday, the 17th of May, will immediately follow the pinse holiday weekend this year. That means most stores will be closed for three days in a row, and the state-regulated Vinmonopolet for four. PHOTO: newsinenglish.no

Business was expected to be especially brisk before Norway started shutting down for not only the annual pinse (Whitsund) holidays on Sunday and Monday, but also Norway’s festive Constitution Day on the 17th of May. It falls on Tuesday this year, so while small shops that are allowed to stay open on Sundays and holidays can still do so, retailers and banks otherwise won’t return to normal until Wednesday.

Retail outlets for Norway’s highly regulated Vinmonopolet also traditionally close on the day before major holidays. That’s about to change following some highly debated political liberalization, but the rule still applies this year. That means all Vinmonopolet stores will be shuttered on Saturday, forcing Norwegians to plan ahead and stock up on the sparkling beverages that for many are an important part of 17th of May celebrations, also at breakfast.

Unusual calendar collision
The four-day shutdown is unusual and attributed strictly to the way the calendar falls this year. An early Easter led to early Ascension Day- and Whitsund holidays, placing both before the 17th of May, and even running right into it. Vinmonopolet managers were bracing for a rush late Friday afternoon.

“Even though most people are used to us being closed on pinseaften (the day before pinse on Sunday), I think many forget or haven’t realized it, and will be disappointed when they meet closed doors on Saturday,” Jens Nordahl, a spokesman for Vinmonopolet, told newspaper Aftenposten. Especially if they hadn’t done shopping for any 17th of May parties.

“We have lots of people on the job,” Nordahl added, so he claimed that store managers were hoping for “cozy chaos” on Friday and that lines at cash registers wouldn’t be too long.

“Sales always go up before the 17th of May, and with pinse in addition, we expect a hefty increase this year,” he told Aftenposten. Vinmonopolet normally sells around 1.4 million liters of wine, liquor and strong beers a week. Sales were budgeted to jump to around 2 million liters this week, up around 50 percent. Sales on Friday were expected to be five times that on a normal day.

Chilly holidays in store
Other holiday weekend preparations could be seen this week, with marching bands out on neighbourhood streets practicing for 17th of May parades, and children’s choirs out in sunny weather singing the national anthem. Temperatures tumbled on Friday as predicted and weather forecasts were not promising the warm sunny weather of the past week in Southern Norway. Chilly weather and showers were expected from Kirkenes in the north to coastal areas of the southwest.

Some large shopping centers in the Oslo area also stayed open unusually late on Thursday night to accommodate customers. Several were running ads in local media warning that they’d be closing at 4pm on Saturday and not reopening until Wednesday morning.

Retailers can get back to normal from then. Norway actually has fewer public holidays than many other countries and doesn’t float them to weekdays if they happen to fall on a Saturday of Sunday. When the May 1 holiday landed on a Sunday this year, for example, there was no extra holiday offered on Monday, as is standard in the US or the UK with its “bank holidays.” This weekend also marks the last public holidays of the year in Norway until Christmas.

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund