Norway’s national day, 17th of May, is a celebration of the Norwegian constitution – now the oldest standing constitution in Europe and the second oldest in the world.
This year it is 200 years since a contingent of farmers, businessmen and politicians gathered to draft a new constitution at Eidsvoll on 17th of May 1814, ending 400 years of Danish autocracy. Despite not gaining full independence until 1905 as Norway stayed in a union with Sweden, this date remains the country’s official national day.
Throughout Norwegian towns and villages, people will gather in the streets decorated with flags and birch to take part in national day children parades known as “barnetog”, as well as a range of other festivities.
Some hundred thousand people are expected to gather in the centre of Oslo for the bicentenary. The capital has the longest children’s procession in Norway with 109 participating schools proudly carrying banners, waving flags and shouting ‘hurrah’ alongside school marching bands and baton twirlers.
Tens of thousands line the city’s main street Karl Johans gate to watch the children’s joyous revelry as the parade moves up to the royal palace square, where the whole Royal family greet the procession from their balcony – a century old tradition.
What makes the celebrations such a picturesque display is the amount of children and adults dressed head to toe in the traditional dress “bunad”, which vary in colour and style depending on the region the family descend from.
Women bustle past in floor-length woollen dresses - one more colourful than the other – white shirts, aprons and laced-up bodices elaborately decorated with embroidery and jewellery. Young boys run around in knee socks, plus fours and waistcoats that match their fathers, while high school graduates known as “russ” sport overalls in fire-engine red and sky blue. The effect is quite wonderful and completely transforms the cities and towns.
Anywhere you go there will also usually be a vendor selling ice cream and hot dogs. The general rule is that on 17th May, children are allowed to eat as many ice creams as they want. This explains why Norwegians eat between five and ten times as much ice cream on the national day compared to a normal spring day.
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The Norwegian royal family will greet a procession of children from more than 100 schools from their balcony at the Royal Palace on 17th of May.
Ten thousands of children parading in Oslo for constitution bicentenary
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