Norwegian Constitution Day celebrations involve parades, music and a day off for most people. Here's what to expect on the big day in 2023.
Last year, 17 May celebrations returned to normal following a couple of years' disruption. It was a breath of fresh air after a difficult period for us all. This year, the parties shall continue and in some cases, be bigger and better than ever.
Norwegians and visitors turn out in great numbers on the 17th of May (syttende mai) to celebrate the anniversary of their constitution. Signed at Eidsvoll in 1814, the constitution was the creation of modern Norway as we know it today.
A key moment in Norwegian history, the constitution was inspired by the US Declaration of Independence and the French revolution, and the subsequent constitutions.
In this article, I'll take a look at what's planned in the big cities in 2023. But first, a more general introduction to the day.
Constitution Day celebrations
While each town or village organises its own celebrations, the day almost always follows a familiar format no matter where you are.
In the morning, Norwegians gather with friends or family for a lavish breakfast, often featuring a glass of champagne. It's not uncommon to see groups of people enjoying themselves on their balconies at 8am!
The first formal event of the day tends to be the children's parade (barnetog), featuring marching bands and flag-waving children from local schools.
Typically, this is followed by a people's parade (folketog), which features local workplaces, groups and societies. As many Norwegians volunteer, it can be difficult for some people to choose who to march with!
The final march of the day is the high school graduates (russetog), often looking worse for wear as their month-long russefeiring comes to an end. Sometimes the marches are combined into just one or two.
Many eyes tend to fall on the capital city during the morning. NRK covers events all over the country, but Oslo falls into focus once the Royal Family comes out to wave at the children's parade before lunchtime.
The day starts with wreath laying at different graveyards and statues throughout the city. Karl Johans gate is the location for the children's parade, before attention turns to a traditional concert in the grounds of Akershus Fortress.
The parade is free to watch but getting there early is a must to secure a good view. Tickets are required to enter the best spots near the palace. These are free but must be reserved in advance.
Although these are the main events in the capital, smaller events take place all over the city. The various districts of Oslo all organise specific events as do other groups and individual restaurants. For more information, check out the dedicated webpages at Oslo Kommune.
Norway's second biggest city hosts a combined parade during the morning from Bergenshus to Festplassen, where the main celebrations take place throughout the day.
In addition, Bergen hosts an early morning parade at 7am and a torchlit parade at 10.15pm to bookend the day.
In 2020, Bergen introduced a boat parade to mark the day while staying within the regulations that were in place at the time. Such was the success of the event, it now seems to be a permanent feature of the day! This year's boat parade around the Byfjord starts at 10.30am.
For more information on events in Bergen, check out the city's dedicated 17 May website.
Having lived in Trondheim since 2013, I've seen my fair share of 17th of Mays! In Trondheim, the children's (9.45am), people's (1pm) and russ (4pm) parades are separate events held throughout the day.
Passengers on the Norwegian coastal ferry that docks in Trondheim during the morning also get a chance to join in the fun. From 9am, they get a chance to join a small parade of their own through the city, before returning to their ship.
For a better idea of what to expect in Trondheim, take a look at this 17 May live blog I published in 2019. It contains photos and videos from more than 12 hours of fun and games.
Domkirkeplassen is the central point for the celebrations in Stavanger. At 10am, the children's parade takes place along the Storhaug route, before the people's parade at 4pm makes its way through the western part of town.
For more information, check out the 17 May webpages at Stavanger Kommune.
The rest of Norway
Events are set to take place throughout Norway on a more-or-less similar basis to previous years. For details on your specific location, try googling “17 mai” together with the name of the municipality, or the website of your local municipality.
What will you do to celebrate 17 May in Norway this year? Let us know in the comments below.
2 thoughts on “Norway National Day: What to Expect on 17 May This Year”
Hello from New Zealand from a descendent of Norwegians who sailed for over three months in 1872 to help establish a new colony. I am forever grateful they took the long journey in the middle of winter. What could be better in this world than to be a Kiwi with a Norwegian grandfather. Tusen takk
Ngā mihi nui
My daughter, granddaughter and I will be in Bergen for our first time on May 17. We are excited and looking forward to celebrating Constitution Day with Norwegians.