Flags fly but 40% drop big parade

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As Norway headed into its annual, festive Constitution Day celebrations on the 17th of May, interest seemed to be declining in the traditional children’s parade in Oslo. Only around 60 percent of local school students will be marching this year, but some think it’s purely a case of timing.

There may not be as many children marching in this year's 17th of May parade in Oslo, but who do are usually enthusiastic. In the background, the Norwegian Parliament downtown. PHOTO: newsinenglish.no

There may not be as many children marching in this year’s 17th of May parade in Oslo, but those who do are usually enthusiastic. In the background, the Norwegian Parliament downtown. PHOTO: newsinenglish.no

This year’s 17th of May holiday falls on the Friday heading into another traditionally important long holiday weekend known as pinse in Norway (Whitsund). That’s when thousands of families open up their summer homes for the season or head out of town, so this year’s fall-off in children signing up to march with their school classes in the 17th of May parade is being linked more to family plans than any decline in patriotism.

“There are many who are heading out of town,” Irene Langeid, superintendent at Løren School, told newspaper Aftenposten. Around half of Løren’s students are marching with their classes through downtown Oslo this year, she said, noting that “we usually have much higher participation, also among teachers. Now I’ve had to go around and convince folks to take part.”

An informal survey of 31 schools conducted by Aftenposten resulted in an average of 60 percent participation, from as low as 37 percent at Lindeberg School to 75 percent at Tveita School and 79 percent at Smestad School. Participation is highest among the youngest children in the primary grades, while students in the sixth and seventh grades, for example, may not think it’s “cool” to march in the Oslo parade and wave to the king on the balcony of the Royal Palace any more. Their participation was lowest.

“When I was in the sixth grade in 1967, I remember I stood on the sidelines, too,” Odd Arne Hagen, assistant principal at Ellingsrudåsen School told Aftenposten. Oslo Mayor Fabian Stang agreed: “I remember from my own childhood that some years it was popular to go in the parade, other years it was ‘out,'” Stang said. He wasn’t disappointed that around 40 percent of Oslo school children won’t be marching this year.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if the royal family is glad that not everybody is marching,” Stang said. The parade takes around three-and-a-half hours with today’s participation, he noted, and would require the royals to stand even longer on the balcony if they needed to wave to all of Oslo’s school children.

Full program from early morning
Stang and the royals faced a busy day on the 17th of May, as always. Crown Prince Haakon and his family would be standing outside of their home in suburban Asker from just after 8:15am to greet their local parade, and a long string of wreath-layings and flag-raisings begins at 8am all over the country.

The parades generally start at 10am, with Oslo’s being led off this year by Nordstrand School on the city’s southeast side, since it’s celebrating its 100th anniversary. The parade of 109 schools and various brass bands and organizations usually runs until around 1:30pm, after which several of the bands and choirs are due to hold outdoor concerts around town.

There also will be a free concert inside the Oslo Concert House in the afternoon and folk dancing at Universitetsplassen downtown at 6pm. Restaurants, cafés and bars do brisk business as well.

The weather forecast remained highly variable, with both rain and sunshine predicted around the country. The best weather was expected in Trondheim, with the forecast calling for clear skies and temperatures as high as 20C (nearly 70F). Good weather was also expected in much of northern Norway, while skies were likely to be overcast in much of southern Norway. In Oslo, state meteorologists predicted cloudy skies and a high of 16C. Rain was expected in the evening in Stavanger, Haugesund, Bergen and in the mountains around Geilo.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund

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