Each year on May 17 Norwegians fill the streets with cheers and flags in celebration of Norway's constitution, adopted in 1814.
The May 17 celebrations vary from place to place, but usually follow a traditional pattern that makes this the highlight of the year for most Norwegian children. A must in the celebrations are the children's parades, made up of school classes marching with the school band through the local community. Most of the children carry small Norwegian flags and the route is lined with enthusiastic onlookers. Dressed in their best, the children then engage in games and activities, and for many this is the one day of the year where the supply of ice cream and hot dogs is endless.
Most people dress in their best spring clothes, with a Norwegian flag or May 17 ribbon pinned to their lapel. It has become increasingly popular to wear the national dress, the bunad, on this occasion. The bunad varies in appearance from region to region and the magnificent sight of national costumes from all over the country is one of the reasons why this day truly represents a celebration of Norwegian tradition and history.
May is the month when spring really blooms in Norway, and this influences the menu chosen for the day. While hot dogs and ice cream are popular with the children, the adult population often stick to cured meats, sausages, traditional sour cream porridge and many throw barbeques. Desserts and cakes are a must, and many schools and families give breakfast parties before the parade starts.
The "russ" celebration- ending 13 years of school
May 17th is also the day students in their last year of upper secondary school celebrate the end of 13 years of school, even though many still have to pass final exams. They call themselves "russ" and illustrate their standing through colourful overalls depending on their line of study. High spirits are the norm and the festivities usually last day and night. Many transport themselves around town in self-decorated buses and vans with slogans and booming music.
May 17 outside Norway
Many Norwegians and people with Norwegian roots living abroad also celebrate Norway's constitution day. Several Norwegian seamen's churches, embassies, student associations and other Norwegian institutions organize processions similar to those held in Norway.
Norway adopted its constitution in 1814, and it is this event that is celebrated May 17. The Norwegian Parliament, the Storting, held the first May 17 celebrations in 1836, and from then on the day was regarded as the national day. The first children's parade was held in 1870. Since 1906, the Royal Family have gathered on the balcony of the Royal Palace in Oslo to wave to the children marching by.