Hurray for 17 May!
Whether in Norway or abroad, Norway’s Constitution Day (grunnlovsdag) is always a celebration full of lively parades and gatherings. This year, while we can’t celebrate in the usual way, we can still commemorate this day at home with as much cheer as usual. Here, I’ve listed 17 ways to celebrate Norway’s Constitution Day at home.
A little background: Norway became an independent nation in 1814 after the Constitution of Norway was agreed unanimously by the Eidsvoll Assembly on May 16. It was signed and came into force the next day on the 17th. Celebrations were sporadic, but as Norway was in a union with Sweden all festivities on the day were banned for almost a decade from 1820. It wasn’t until 1833 that celebrations returned with the first official 17 May speech by the poet Henrik Wergeland. In 1870, the first children’s parade took place in Oslo under the initiative of writer Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson and continues to this day. All throughout Norway, children’s parades are the center of the day’s celebrations. In Oslo, tens of thousands usually fill the streets to watch the parades and observe the Royal Family waving to all the children as they march past – a tradition since 1906.
17 Ways to Celebrate Norway’s Constitution Day (17 May) at Home
- Wake up bright and early and get the celebrations going with a salute. Cannons are fired as early as 7:00am in certain places in Norway to salute the day. So, you can either silently reflect on the start of the day or welcome it in with some light banging of pans or whistling (careful though not to disturb your neighbors!).
- Fly your Norwegian flag(s) and decorate with red, white and blue. Make ribbons, paper flags, banners and the like. Serve foods that reflect the color palette and decorate desserts with strawberries, blueberries and raspberries.
- Dress your best. It doesn’t matter that you’re at home, put on your best attire or traditional bunad (Norway’s national costume).
- Pull out the linens and china. You’re not the only thing that needs to dress your best, make sure your table is set and adorned with flags, candles and flowers.
- Prepare a full breakfast spread. Breakfast becomes a big affair, so go all out. It’s customary to serve a buffet and typically this includes scrambled eggs, smoked salmon, fresh loaves of bread and rolls and an array of other edibles to match, such as cheeses, spreads and cold cuts. Many will also toast with a glass of bubbly.
- Have your own in-home parade and/or watch earlier ones: The parades are an integral part of the day’s celebrations and usually begin mid-morning. Here’s a video of Oslo’s parade from 2019.
- Shout “Hipp Hipp Hurra!” It’s the official chant of the day and you’re welcome to shout it as you please.
- Listen to the drums. Bergen is famous for its buekorps. You can watch clips of them from last year’s parade here. If you have some drums on hand, you might want to join in the fun.
- Congratulate your friends and family. “Gratulerer med dagen” is the greeting of the day. Spread the greeting via phone, text, email, or social media.
- Indulge in ice cream. Lots of ice cream! With more time at home, you might want to try making your own like Rømmegrøt Ice Cream or Roasted Strawberry and Lemon Ice Cream.
- Eat pølser “hot dogs”. More hot dogs are consumed on this day in Norway than on any other. Wrap them in lomper (soft potato flatbreads) or place in buns. Don’t forget the ketchup, mustard and sprøstekt løk “fried onions”.
- Bake a cake or two or three… May is the month of cakes and 17 May is the highlight. They don’t call it kakebordet “the cake table” for nothing. For some recipe inspiration head here.
- Fill your afternoon full of games. The day is all about having fun, especially for the kids. Games can include sack races, ring toss, limbo, darts, go fishing, and other indoor/outdoor games.
- Sing along. At 13:00/1pm (GMT +2) on 17 May, 2020 all of Norway will sing the national anthem and people are encouraged to open windows and sing along from their homes.
- Watch the Hans Majestet Kongens 3. Gardekkompani (HMKG) perform. They are a renowned military band and drill unit of the Norwegian Armed Forces who participate in parades, ceremonies and international military tattoos. See them perform here.
- BBQ for dinner. Light up the grill and cook your favorites! A bbq is always a nice way to round off the evening.
- Kos deg. After a long, fun-filled day it’s important to kick off your shoes, get cozy and relax as we look forward to the next year’s celebrations.
Although this year is different, let’s enjoy ourselves as much as possible and ensure the freezer is full of ice cream! I’d love to hear how you are celebrating this year, so write me a note in the comment section below.
*For a listing of the day’s NRK programs for 2020 (in Norsk), see here.
*For a fun upbeat kid’s explanation of the history of 17 mai (in Norsk), check out this video.