I know you heard from me just recently, but today was the most special day in Norway – the national holiday. And I think it is worth a blog entry, especially because I won’t have time for one this weekend. From Friday to Sunday evening I will be on an island as I mentioned before. And then on Monday we have our Norwegian exam – perfect timing. The heck with it!
But back to the topic: On May 17th 1814 the Norwegian constitution was signed and that is why it became the national holiday of Norway. It is quite an experience to join this event, but there are some things you should know about it or you will be identified as a tourist or at least a foreigner immediately. So…
First: The day is not exactly suitable for relaxing and sleeping long in the morning. Celebrations kick off early for Norway's national day, brigades and (children’s) parades march through the streets while banging their drums. Just expect an early start, and high noise levels throughout the day.
Second: Norwegians like to dress casually at any other time, but not on their national holiday. Many, especially women, wear their 'bunad', the traditional costume. Men often show up in a suit. At least they leave their sportswear at home and grab a jacket instead of casual clothes. So if you don’t want to attract attention, dress appropriately, even if no one will say something if you don’t.
Third: Your eyes will catch the Norwegian flags immediately, because they are everywhere. Not only on the national holiday, but that day it gets even more. The town appears painted in red, white & blue and of course, a few days before the actual event appropriate equipment and decoration stuff can be bought pretty much everywhere. Just get some and join in ;)
Forth: Norway might appear as kind of an empty country. Usually not too many people move around the streets (if you are not staying in a big touristic place) – on May 17th they do. Expect queues for getting food and stuff as well as streets packed with people. Just relax and take it with plenty of humor.
Fifth: Many people will have a proper meal besides the traditional 'pølse med brød' (hot dog) and ice-cream. Often special May 17th menus are offered. But if you want to enjoy Norway’s Constitution Day in the same style, you should book your table well in advance to avoid disappointment. Just showing up like on every other day won’t work.
Sixth: The Norwegian weather is unpredictable. You may be lucky – or not. So be prepared for everything from deepest winter to midsummer. Better be safe than sorry. (By the way, the radio presenters do nothing else than speculating what the weather will be like on May 17th earlier on in the month and I overheard several conversations concerning today’s weather forecast.)
Seventh: “Gratulerer med dagen!” – “Gratulerer med dagen!” This you will hear everywhere all day long – the common greeting among Norwegians on their national holiday. It can be translated as ‘Congratulations to this day’ and means also ‘Happy birthday’. So wish Norway’s constitution ‘Happy birthday’ with saying ‘Gratulerer med dagen’ to everyone you are running into.
Eighth: And last but not least, enjoy the day and take a lot of pictures. It is really something unique and I am sure great photo opportunities will appear over the day like they did to me, as you can see :)
To tell you a bit about my experiences of May 17th and not just general things: My day started together with the other volunteers at 09.30 in the morning, next to the children’s school, where the children’s parade got ready and started half an hour later. Equipped with flags (a little present from Astrid) and accompanied by the sun and music corps we joined the march through Nordfjordeid. Afterwards Astrid picked us up to take us to Stårheim for lunch and their parade. Just in time for the second parade at 03.00 pm she brought us back to Nordfjordeid. Therefor we met Anne Karin, the chef of the school canteen, who took us with her. Unfortunately my stomach didn’t tolerate the Norwegian food (rømmegraut) once again, and I went home after the parade stopped and speeches were held. I just didn’t feel well and still don’t. But that way I have time for my blog right now and hopefully it will be better till the evening. There the ‘Tappenstrek’ will take place, another parade, but this time in four rows and everybody has to walk in lockstep. It is something special for Nordfjordeid and it sounds funny to me, so I really want to be part of it. We will see :)
Gratulerer med dagen alle saman,