The Norwegian flag on 17th of May, with MS Nordlys in the background
The Norwegian flag on 17th of May, with MS Nordlys in the background Photo: Trond Gansmoe Johnsen - Guest image Photo

Life's a party on May 17 - Norway's National Day

Fancy a Hurtigruten voyage in spring time? Soon, in May, the whole country will celebrate the constitution of Norway. While in some countries tourists just need to know that shops will be closed on a national holiday, in Norway you better prepare to be among a 24-hour long celebration everywhere you go.

10 Things you should know about May 17 in Norway

1. History. Where, when and why?

On May 17 in 1814 the constitution of Norway was signed in Eidsvoll. The constitution declared Norway to be an independent kingdom and the election of Crown Prince Christian Frederik as the King of independent Norway, following Denmark-Norway's defeat in the Napoleonic Wars.

In the first years of Norway's Union with Sweden (1814-1905), the Swedish King was reluctant to allow National Day celebrations for the Norwegians, but resistance was so strong that the was forced to rescind.

2. Long parades on short legs – it’s a children’s day!

After 1864 the day became more established when the first children's parade was launched in Oslo, at that time named Christiana. Today each elementary school district arranges its own parade with marching bands. The parade takes the children through the community, often making stops at homes of senior citizens and war memorials.

3. Eat and drink.

Freshly baked bread, scrambled eggs, salmon and Champagne make a good start to this special day, often enjoyed in company with friends and neighbours. Children look forward to traditionally served ice cream, sweets and hot-dogs.

4. Countless flags!

The red, white and blue flag with the „Scandinavian cross“ can be seen simply everywhere. Not only hoisted on every single flag pole but waved by every parade participant and bystander, in every size and material.

5. What to wear?

People typically wear red, white and blue ribbons. Although a long-standing tradition, it has lately become more popular for men, women and children to wear traditional outfits, called “Bunad”. There are more than 100 different “bunads”, and the design is with embroidery woven scarves, shawls and handmade silver, all this indicates where the “bunad” is from in the country. Costumes are created with different meanings. Some are based on local customs, others were designed in the 1900s and similar to the old material. The names of the traditional “bunadene” are based on their geographical origin and traditionally people choose a “bunad” from where they come from.

The graduating class from the Norwegian equivalent of high school, known as “russ” wear dungarees in different colors. But the majority is in red or blue.

6. Let’s get loud!

Marching bands will play and the children will sing lyrics about the celebration of the National Day. The parade concludes with the stationary singing of the national anthem "Ja, vi elsker dette landet" and the royal anthem "Kongesangen".
The children also make a lot of noise shouting "Hurra!", singing, blowing whistles and shaking rattles.
The graduating class from the Norwegian equivalent of high school sometimes celebrate with their own parades with cars and busses with sound systems.

7. Superlatives in the capital city.

The longest parade takes part in Oslo, where some 100,000 people travel to the city centre to participate in the main festivities. The massive Oslo parade includes around 100 schools and marching bands.

8. Visit the Royals.

In Oslo the parades pass the royal palace where the royal family greet the people from the main balcony. The Royal Guard performs on the main street of the capital city and display their drill and musical skills.

9. The mighty ones being spectators.

The low focus on elected government and the virtual lack of any military-centred celebrations make the May 17 really a peoples’ parade day, dedicated especially to children and young grown-ups.

10. Hurtigruten.

To experience the magic of May 17 you do not have to plan your voyage with a stay in Oslo or Bergen on that exact day. Every single place in Norway will be celebrating, and so are the people on our ships. Look forward to flags, „mini-parades“, special buffets and most of all: a very special enthusiam with which the whole crew will infect its guests from all over the world. More details will be published soon.

Norway coastal voyages in May.