Hundreds of thousands of Norwegians could take off on an unusually long weekend that began Wednesday night and continues through Monday. That’s as long as the annual Easter holiday weekend, made possible simply because of how the calendar falls this year.
It’s based around the post-Easter Ascension Day (called Kristi himmelfartsdag in Norwegian), which has long been a public holiday in Norway and most other countries in Europe. Many Norwegians also take off on Friday, for an annual four-day holiday often used to open hytter (holiday homes) along the coast or get boats ready for the summer season.
Even though Friday is supposed to be a normal work day, public sector staffing can often be low and some services get postponed. In Gran, for example, hytte owners suddenly found long-awaited appointments for chimney sweeping cancelled because of what was called an inneklemt dag (a workday between two other days off).
This year the holiday weekend extends through Monday because of Norway’s national Grunnlovsdag (Constitution Day) celebrations on the 17th of May. Most all traditional parades and gatherings have been cancelled for the second year in a row by the Corona crisis, but it’s still a holiday and recent easing of anti-infection rules means up to 10 people can gather in private homes. That’s likely to lead to quite a few parties, and lines extended around the block outside various Vinmopolet stores (the state wine and liquor monopoly) on Friday morning. Vinmonopolet also recorded a new sales record on Wednesday.
Norway’s Royal Family, always at the center of 17th of May celebrations, won’t be standing for hours on the balcony of the Royal Palace in Oslo to wave to marching school children but they will make an appearance at 11:30am that will be broadcast nationwide. They’ll observe a vastly downscaled ceremony on the palace grounds and then, precisely at noon, lead an attempt to sing the national anthem Ja vi elsker along with Norwegians all over the country. Government officials hope that while the royals sing from the balcony, the rest of the population will sing along in front of their TVs, from their own balcones or in the midst of 17th of May brunches.
Attempts were also being made to restrict access to the grounds of the Royal Palace, to ensure social distancing in a city that still demands two meters between people instead of just one. State health officials, realizing that may not be easy, granted dispensation to Royal Palace staff on Friday to allow the festivities to move forward in a “defensible manner.”
After their balcony appearance at midday on Monday, King Harald and Queen Sonja are due to take off in the same vintage car used at the end of World War II for another drive through town like the surprise one last year. Crown Prince Haakon and Crown Princess Mette-Marit will also go for drive around town in the 1966 Lincoln Continental convertible used at both their wedding and the king and queen’s wedding. The routes were withheld to prevent crowds from gathering.
They’ll end up at Filipstad on Oslo’s waterfront, where the royal yacht Norge is docked. It will be decked out with national and maritime flags and the royals will embark on a cruise down the Oslo Fjord towards Tønsberg. Other boatowners are encouraged to sail along in a major boat parade. Local maritime association Oslo seilforening has urged members to dress up, decorate their boats with birch branches, mount flags at the stern and join in.
The most unpredictable factor was the weather, with rain forecast during the day.