a first timer’s take on syttende mai

Syttende mai is Norway’s National Day, or Constitution Day (much like the 4th of July, it is referred to as simply syttende mai – the 17th of May). In 1814, after hundreds of years under Danish rule, Norway got its own constitution (not that this meant Norway was fully independent in 1814, instead they remained under Swedish rule until 1905…). Traditionally the day starts with a champagne breakfast, is followed by parades through the city and then other forms of merryment as the day goes on and the weather allows for (eating soft ice cream, drinking beers, enjoying dinner and cakes).

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(photo from adressa.no)

The weather had been sunny for the first half of the week, but of course I awoke to rain on Thursday. Rain that never let up all day. It was actually one of the wettest 17. mai in history… but I guess that is what gore-tex is for! I met my friend Maren (it was her first syttende mai as well) in the city center to watch the Folketoget (people’s parade). This was one of three(!!) parades during the day, the others being the Barnetoget (children’’s parade) and the Russetoget (Russe – graduating high schoolers – parade).


Norwegians traditionally wear their bunader on syttende mai. Bunader are traditional Norwegian folk costumes that are specific to different regions of Norway. The styles, embroidery patterns and colors vary with the region and the outfits consist of vests, capes, caps and silver  or gold jewelry. I am going to guess that most are made of wool. I learned last night that a bunad costs thousands of dollars – wowzers!


Despite the weather, the streets were filled with people. I can only imagine what it would be like on a sunny day! Trondheim is large enough that even though many people are marching in the parade – it last for almost 2 hours! – there are still plenty of spectators. I read another account of the day from a small town up north where the whole town participates in the parade meaning there is no one left to watch. Instead they divide the parade in half and march from opposite ends of town so they can spectate each other as they pass by. Genius!


The parade featured different groups and organizations from Trondheim – the Norwegian Trekking Association (above), several bands and choirs, dancers (including the Thai dancers below), sporting groups, and student organizations.


There was also this…                                                                                                           


Yeeeeah, I’m not quite sure either. I guess there is a club for everything and everyone…

We lasted close to an hour before the rain got the best of us and we retreated to a nearby café to warm up and dry off. We weren’t the only ones taking shelter from the rain. We finished off the day back at my apartment with a bbq dinner and dessert with my roommate and several of his friends. All in all a successful syttende mai!


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One Response to a first timer’s take on syttende mai

  1. Pingback: may, the holiday jackpot | in the land of fjords

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