The Corona pandemic, combined with cold and constant rain, literally put a damper on celebrations of Norway’s national day on the 17th of May. With all parades cancelled and large gatherings banned for the second year in a row, the Royal Family and most everybody else could only hope festivities will be back to normal next year.
King Harald, Queen Sonja and their family couldn’t bring themselves to scoff tradition and drop their annual appearance on the palace balcony. With the next generations at their side, the 84-year-old royal couple gamely waved and applauded as various choirs, dancers and the King’s Guards performed in pouring rain for around a half-hour on the grounds below.
The area is usually packed with tens of thousands of dressed-up Norwegians, many wearing national costumes known as the bunad. This year, those who did brave the elements were kept far away from the palace building, bundled up in parkas instead.
Streets were unusually quiet elsewhere in the capital, with the rain turning out to be perhaps the best infection prevention measure of all. Norwegians had been urged to stay home and watch the ceremonies at the palace on TV anyway. At precisely noon, canons roared from the nearby Akershus Fortress and Castle and the royals sang Norway’s national anthem, with everyone watching encouraged to sing along.
Many reportedly did, from their own living rooms, out on balconies or in gardens in towns and cities where the weather was better (in Stavanger, the sun was shining). Norwegians all over the country also shared photos of songfests at noon, from mountaintops, coastal villages or indoor luncheons.
The bad weather in Oslo forced another change in plans for the royals to then ride around the Norwegian capital in two of their vintage convertibles. King Harald had earlier stated that “if the people can’t come to us, we’ll go to the people,” but it wasn’t as easy to see them from behind the rain-splashed glass of their modern limousine.
The drive ended at the harbour at Filipstad in Oslo, where the royals boarded their historic yacht Norge to eat lunch and sail down the Oslo Fjord as the centerpiece of a boat parade.
Most Norwegians have been taking all the Corona-induced disruption in stride, and going along with how infection control measures are constantly interfering with everyday life and what should be special occasions. Not everyone is cooperating, however, with police reporting on Monday that they stopped a protest demonstration that was heading towards the palace. It was called an “Alternative 17th of May Parade,” mounted by those opposing and often defying Corona restrictions.
“At Slottet (the Royal Palace) there was another event underway,” police operations leader Tor Gulbrandsen told newspaper VG. “Therefore police chose to stop this alternative parade before it reached the palace grounds.”