Gratulerer med dagen!
This is how Norwegians greet each other on May 17. On this day people in Norway commemorate the signing of their constitution and simultaneously their independence from the Kingdom of Sweden on that date in 1814. It is Constitution Day in Norway, a helligdager (public holiday) as the Norwegians say. A day to celebrate, to eat, to drink and to wish each other a happy Grunnlovsdagen (constitution day).
Among Norwegians, the day is referred to simply as Syttende Mai (17th of May). For many it is an opportunity to show off their bunad, Norway’s traditional garments. There are several different ones, each indicating their owners’ ancestry by their unique style and color. Many will get together with family and friends for a traditional Norwegian style potluck breakfast, enjoying freshly baked bread, scrambled eggs, smoked salmon and for the adults, maybe even a glass of champagne.
Later in the day, people meet in their neighborhoods, play games and parade down the streets. Often children take center stage. In Oslo, Norway’s capital, nearly 100 schools and their marching bands form one of the largest parades in the country. They will play music, wave their flags and shout Hurra, Hurra, Hurra, greeting the royal family with Princess Ingrid Alexandra of Norway, who will be standing on the royal palace balcony waving back in celebration. But let’s be honest, mostly the focus is on eating huge amounts of ice cream, hot dogs and having a good time.
For many friends of Norway, who reside in the U.S., these celebrations are typically a nine-and-a-half hours transatlantic flight away—if you live on the east coast that is. But what do you do when you can’t board a flight to Europe and celebrate in person these days?
One option is to sit back in your most comfortable Stressless® Mike or Max recliner and turn on the television, in hopes of finding a glimpse of the festivities on the international news. Or you can put on your bunad, hop in your car and head to one of the festivities happening right here in America.
That’s right, Syttende Mai is celebrated across the United States in several communities honoring their Norwegian heritage.
Take Stoughton, Wisconsin for example and their Syttende Mai festival taking place May 14-16. It’s a weekend-long celebration of Norwegian heritage featuring fun activities and cultural experiences for the whole family. From the late 1800s to the early 1900s, Stoughton enjoyed an influx of Norwegians, and at one time, as many as 75 percent of its residents spoke Norwegian. These immigrants celebrated Syttende Mai unofficially, but it became an annual, city-wide tradition in the 1950s. Now, the festival takes place every year on the weekend closest to Norway’s May 17th Constitution Day.
Then there is the Syttende Mai festival in Seattle, Washington, or the one in Spring Grove, Minnesota. Additional celebrations take place at the National Norwegian-American Museum and Folk Art School Vesterheim in Decorah, Iowa, as well as the Norway House, the National Norwegian Center in America, in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Options are all across the country—and if you don’t feel comfortable visiting one of these places in person, you can still tune in virtually to one of the many offerings available, right from the comfort of home —just make sure you have enough Iskrem and Pølse on hand!