The sun was shining or at least peeking out from Kirkenes in the north to Kristiansand in the south for Norway’s Constitution Day celebrations on the 17th of May. Traditional parades, outdoor dancing, concerts and other special events were on tap all over the country.
Celebrations started as early as 6am in some communities but mostly around 8am in the Oslo area, and most official events are held outdoors. That’s why Norwegians could look forward to a long, light day in every town on the weather map with the exception of Hammerfest in Finnmark, where the forecast called for rain and temperatures of just 5C (just over 40F).
Temperatures were chilly in the single digits in much of Northern Norway, but with clear skies and sunshine. Thermometers were due to rise farther south, to around 15C in Trøndelag, 16C in Lillehammer, 20C in Oslo and 21C in Bergen.
Traditional wreath-layings begin at 8am at most major monuments and statues of fallen heroes, with large crouds regularly turning out at the Vår Frelsers national cemetery in Oslo. That’s where many famous Norwegians rest, including Henrik Ibsen, Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson, Johan Sverdrup and Ivar Aasen. More ceremonies are held at the historic Akershus Fortress and Castle, where the capital’s long parade featuring children from 115 schools begins at 10am.
Most festive is the sight of thousands of traditional Norwegian costumes from various regions of the country, worn by both women and increasing numbers of men. There’s said to be 2.5 million bunader hanging in closets around the country, and the 17th of May is when they’re most often pulled out and worn.
New this year is the trend towards dressing dogs up in bunader as well, to reflect where their owners come from. Not everyone is pleased by the introduction of bunads for pets: “Clothes that only entertain people are unnecessary and can often create stress for the animals,” claimed animal psychologist Tess Erngren to newspaper Aftenposten this week. Veteranarian Helle Haukvik agreed: “Animals should be allowed to avoid wearing a bunad.”
Most Norwegians are at least dressed up on the 17th of May, and often less reserved. The day ranks right up there with Christmas Eve for the majority, as Norwegians celebrate their democracy, freedom and, more recently, prosperity.
Gratulerer med dagen!