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Norway's national day in Oslo - Photo: Asgeir Helgestad/visitnorway.com
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Norway's national day in Oslo Photo: Asgeir Helgestad/visitnorway.com

Norway's national day

17 May is Norway's Constitution Day and is celebrated with children's parades and festivities.

The trees have just turned green and the streets are full of people wearing "bunads", Norway's traditional national costumes.

Everywhere you look there are children with an ice lolly in their hands and a smile on their face.

And flags. Lots and lots of flags.

You're experiencing Norway's Constitution Day, 17 May, commemorating the signing of the constitution on that date in 1814.

Party for the people

On 17 May, it is the colourful processions of children with their banners, flags and bands - not military parades - that play the main role.

The day is celebrated with as much enthusiasm in small Norwegian communities as in the capital city of Oslo, where tens of thousands line Karl Johans gate, Oslo's high street, to watch the parade. The Royal Palace Square is another popular spot, and many gather there to get a glimpse of the Royal Family waving to the passing procession from the palace balcony.

No matter where you are, celebrations start early, so don’t be surprised if you get woken up at 7 or 8 am by the local marching band's drums. Parades, concerts, speeches and general merrymaking are the order of the day, which is often rounded off with a fireworks display.

This is a truly special time to be in Norway, and you should by all means join in with the locals, but don't expect to get much else done that day – most shops and offices are closed on 17 May.

If you are driving, bear in mind that the centre of most cities and towns will be off limits, and traffic jams are likely.

Celebrating the end of school

If you see a bunch of young people in red or blue jumpsuits, they are almost certainly pupils in their last year of high school. Count on them to make a huge contribution to the celebrations. They are called "russ" and are usually partying almost every day, celebrating the end of 13 years of school.

Oddly enough, the celebrations take place before their final exams, instead of after.

The Russ have their own parades, with buses and vans with expensive and rather loud sound systems. Ask them for a card, called a "russekort", and you will get their personal calling card, with personal info and jokes on it.

National costumes

Another element that makes this a unique day is all the beautiful bunads that more and more Norwegians wear on the day. There are hundreds of different ones, each more colourful than the other, and with styles indicating where in Norway the wearer's ancestry lies. In Oslo, it is not unusual to see bunads from all over the country.

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Last updated:  2015-05-04
The Royal Palace is an important hub in the national day parade in Oslo - Photo: Nancy Bundt/Innovation Norway
The Royal Palace is an important hub in the national day parade in Oslo
There will be lots of flags everywhere you look on 17 May - Photo: Nancy Bundt/Innovation Norway
There will be lots of flags everywhere you look on 17 May
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Norway's national day in Oslo - Photo: Asgeir Helgestad/visitnorway.com

Norway's national day

17 May is Norway's Constitution Day and is celebrated with children's parades and festivities.

Norway's national day

Source: Visitnorway

Explore Norway

Experience northern lights or midnight sun above the Arctic Circle, or visit the world famous Norwegian fjords with tall mountains and glaciers.

About Norway

Norway has a population of about 5 million and covers an area of 385,155 square kilometres. The official Head of State is King Harald V.

Religion in Norway

Norse mythology held sway until Norway became Christian around the year 1000. Today there is religious freedom.

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