Traditions Field Note: Norway’s National Day

July 4th is a national holiday in the U.S. Every year we celebrate this holiday because it was the day when our country became separated from the United Kingdom. It was the day the U.S. became its own country!

Norway has a holiday like this too, on May 17th. Everyone celebrates it here and it is an exciting time of the year.

The National Day of Norway, May 17th, has not come yet. Even though it is in the future, all of my Norwegian friends are talking about it and making plans for when the day comes. Norwegian people are very proud of their country. On the bus ride to school every day I see many houses that have the Norwegian flags flying high. Norway became a country in 1814, whereas the U.S. became a country in 1776. This means that the U.S. is older than Norway! Norwegians had to fight very hard for their country to be free, so that is why they are very proud.

Lots of my Norwegian friends dress in the traditional Norwegian clothing during this time. They wear long skirts, family outfits, and bonnets. If they don’t wear the traditional outfit then they usually wear bright red pants with the Norwegian flag on it. When Norwegian students graduate from high school, they usually get overalls that are brightly colored red. They wear these overalls and other colorful clothing during russefeiring (russ celebration). This is a celebration when they graduate from high school. This celebration starts on May 1 and lasts until May 17th, the national holiday. The bright red overalls are seen a lot during this time.

One of my closest Norwegian friends is Ingvild. She is from the third-largest city in Norway and it is called Stavanger. Can you find it on a map? It’s the oil capital of Norway. This is where they drill into the ocean and get oil to send to other countries. She is traveling from Bodø to Stavanger for this national holiday. She will fly to Oslo, the capital, and then take an eight-hour train to get to Stavanger! I wanted to see what she thought about this special day.

“Everyone in Norway gets excited when it is May 17th. My friends and I all wear our Norwegian trousers and my family has a cookout with our friends in the neighborhood.”

Then I asked her why this day is so important. “Norway is a new country, it isn’t old like Sweden or Spain. We are very proud to be independent, and we like to celebrate our country! We love Norway… We keep our traditions by wearing the old clothing and celebrating our country’s freedom.”

Do you remember Victor-Martinus? He is 12 years old. He is my friend Benedicte’s brother, and he lives in Bodø. I asked him what he does for the holiday, too. He said, “I love this holiday. My friends come over and my family has a party. We also walk in the parade and show our flags. My best friend plays the flute. After the parade we play outside for a long time and we don’t have to go to bed early.” He has a lot of fun, but his mother makes him wear the traditional outfit and he does not like it.

In any big city in Norway, they will have a parade on this day as well. Children are a big part of the parade, and every elementary school will make their own flags to carry around while they walk through the street. Some of the people in the parade wear fun costumes, and other people play instruments and cheer everyone along. It is the biggest event of the year! It’s on live television in Oslo for everyone to watch. In Bodø, where I live, there will also be a parade. Benedicte invited me over for a cookout with her and her family.

Some phrases Norwegians use during this holiday are la oss feire (let us celebrate)! This is a big celebration, filled with lots of food (mostly fish), games, and bonding with friends and family. Another word you will hear is bunad, which means costume. This is the traditional costume they wear during this day. You will also hear the word skål (cheers) a lot on this day! Like in America, Norwegians will knock glasses together to show happiness and celebration. They cheers a lot during this event because it is basically a big, happy party. Just like July 4th!

Until we talk next time, ha det bra (goodbye)!

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