Norway declared independence as a kingdom with the constitution that was signed 17 May in 1814. The constitution was an attempt to avoid being ceased by Sweden after the defeat of Denmark-Norway in the Napoleonic Wars. The plan did not succeed and in August 1814 the Union between Sweden and Norway was a fact. However, the 17 May continued to be celebrated sporadically in various parts of the country. The Union with Sweden was dissolved in 1905 and Prince Carl of Denmark was chosen to be King of an independent Norway, under the name Haakon VII.
The celebration in Oslo
The biggest parade takes place in Oslo city centre, and includes pupils from over 120 schools accompanied by marching brass bands. The parade marches through the city centre and past the Royal Palace, where they are greeted by the Royal Family. Only children are allowed to join the parade, and participation must be administered by their school. The brass bands play all kinds of music, but they will all play the national anthem: Ja, vi elsker dette landet. You should try to learn it, but keep in mind that the lyrics are difficult to get right even for native speakers!
It is common to start the celebration with a festive breakfast with friends and then watch the parade. Many schools welcome local residents to games and entertainment in their school yards after the main parade.
People dress in their finest clothes for 17 May. You will see people wearing dresses and suits, and many will wear the national costume, called bunad. There are many local variations from different parts of the country, and there is a lot of tradition and handicraft behind it. People are generally very happy to tell you where their bunad is from.
Everyone is more than welcome to join the celebration, so bring a Norwegian flag and join the fun!
Popular breakfast items are scrambled eggs, smoked salmon, cured meat, cheese and beef patty.
During the day hot dogs, ice cream and soda are the most popular. It is said that on this day the kids are allowed as many ice creams as they want. The traditional sour cream porridge (Rømmegrøt) and cured meat are very popular around the country, but maybe not as common in Oslo.
If you plan to eat out in a resturant for lunch or dinner, you should definitley book a table in advance!
From the end of April to the 17th of May, the graduating students from upper secondary schools are Russ, where they celebrate that they finish 13 years of school. You can recognize them by their red or blue pants, which they wear to both school and parties during these weeks. They will all have personal cards (russekort) that they hand out to the kids, even if they do not always have kids-friendly content. You can often hear Russebusses driving arround the city playing loud music, it is called rulle.