Norway’s National Day In Pictures

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Syttende mai or the seventeenth of May is Norway's constitution day. Expect parades, ice cream, music, singing, and lots and lots of flag waving. Hipp Hipp Hurra!

Norway's National Day remembers the signing of the constitution at Eidsvoll on 17 May, 1814.

Norwegian National Day celebrations

It was at the time considered to be one of the most liberal constitutions in the world due to its radical democratic nature. It's also the second oldest single document national constitution in Europe, after Poland.

The signing of the Norwegian constitution at Eidsvoll on 17 May 1814.

The 17th of May – known as syttende mai in Norwegian – is a public holiday in Norway. While you're free to do with the day as you wish, there's a very strong traditional itinerary to follow, especially if you have kids. Join me as we take a journey through Norway's constitution day celebrations!

Tønsberg Tower sporting the national flag of Norway.

Getting ready

The day starts for the adults by putting out the flag on your balcony or in your garden, followed up with enjoying a champagne breakfast. I like to watch NRK for an hour or so as their coverage of the day zips around the country to show snippets of what's happening and where. Then starts the big rush to the town centres!

Norwegian flags outside the house on the 17th of May
Bakklandet on 17th May

As you can see, the bunad is the typical dress for the occasion, but any formal wear will do. Jeans and a t-shirt are rare sights on the 17th of May!

The weather can also be anything from bright sunshine to rainstorms, and some parts of Norway even get a dusting of snow on the national day.

A typical Norwegian bunad from Hovet
Photo: Multerland (Flickr)

The children's parade

The highlight of the day for many is the children's parade. Made up of groups of children from many of the local schools, the parade typically consists of the school marching band (corps) followed by energetic flag-waving kids marching behind.

There's usually a large banner to signify each school. It reminds me of the Olympics opening ceremony!

National Day parade in Oslo
Children holding balloons on syttende mai

The parade is usually held mid-morning and depending on the size of the town, it can take anything from a few minutes to a few hours!

Children's parades in Norway for the National Day

All around the country…

While the pictures above show the parades in the big cities, even the smallest communities in Norway put on parades. People have differing traditions in some parts of the country, but one thing is constant and that's the parades.

17th of May parade in Verdal, Norway

…and all around the world!

Norway's syttende mai celebrations don't just take place within the country. Millions of Americans claim Norwegian ancestry from mass immigration 100-150 years ago, and they celebrate the day too.

Here's a picture from the 1975 parade in Seattle, followed by a more recent shot from the annual parade in Southwark Park, London.

Norway Day parade in Seattle, USA
Photo: Seattle Municipal Archives
17th May parade in Southwark Park, London
Photo: Lemsipmatt (Flickr)

More music

If marching band music isn't your thing, there's usually plenty more to be found. In the larger cities, choirs and other performers can be found dotted around the city.

Sometimes there are even smaller festivals put on with more contemporary music. This photo was from a free music festival in an Oslo suburb a few years ago.

SOS Rasisme 17.mai at Kubaparken, Oslo

The people's parade

Once the children's parades are done and dusted, people start to line the streets in expectation of the day's biggest parade informally known as folketoget – or ‘The People's Train'.

This is similar to the children's parade but made up of social groups, arts and music associations, employers, sports clubs, charities, and pretty much any organisation from the local area.

Waiting for the 17th of May parade in Trondheim, Norway
Colourful syttende mai parade in Trondheim, Norway

As much as I enjoy watching the people's parade, it can drag on a little. In Trondheim, there are so many groups and organisations that the parade is still going strong after a couple of hours.

Norway's National Day parade in the capital city Oslo

Thankfully, most cafes, bars and restaurants are open for business! While many restaurants are holding private events or require advanced bookings, most cafes set up stalls outside to quickly serve coffee, waffles and ice cream to the hungry and thirsty masses.

Or you can do as we normally do by mid-afternoon and retire home for a beer on the balcony!

Norway folketoget on 17th May
Photo: Ivar Husevåg Døskeland (Flickr)
Celebrating Norway's National Day in a very British style, with a beer on our balcony.

What's your experience of the 17th of May celebrations?

If you've enjoyed this post, why not share it on Pinterest so more people can find out about Norway's National Day? We've got just the pin for that:

Syttende Mai: Norway's National Day is a parade-filled day of celebration every year on the 17th of May.

About David Nikel

Originally from the UK, David now lives in Trondheim and was the original founder of Life in Norway back in 2011. He now works as a professional writer on all things Scandinavia.

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7 thoughts on “Norway’s National Day In Pictures”

  1. Great article! So looking forward to my trip to Norway very soon that includes Syttende mai in Oslo! I have attended or been in our parade here in Seattle for years and have always wanted to see the” ekte norsk” version. Your book has been a real help in planning and we are including Trondheim as part of the trip as well. Tusen takk og gratulerer med dagen🇳🇴

    • Hi Norman, great to know you found the book useful! Bear in mind some prices may have risen slightly since its release. Hard to believe I know! Have a great time 🙂

  2. Regrettably It will be my dad’s funeral in Paignton next week but every year after this one I can remember him along with feeling proud of Norge

  3. My husband and I were fortunate enough to be in Norway, Sveio area, to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the constitution. It was an awesome experience and made us both very proud of our Norwegian heritage. The biggest impression on me was that everyone was either in their bunads or in their Sunday best for the day.

  4. Moving to Oslo within the month. Somewhat apprehensive about what living in Norway will be like.
    Nice photo article.

  5. Back in 61 my parents and I had moved to Kristiansand. I was 10. Oh how I remember marching in the parade with my school. What a fun day it was. I was so proud to be Norwegian,still am.

  6. I miss it quite a few years now since I was home. 17 mai is so nice and no country in the world know how to have a birthday like the Norwigance.
    Love from Palm Coast wish i could be there. My first parade was on 17 mai 1945 in Stavanger.


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