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Public Holidays in Norway 2020

Norwegian public holidays

Planning a trip, a hike, or simply a relaxing day at home? Find out when the next public holidays are in Norway with our handy guide, updated every year.

On top of the generous vacation allowance built into most employment contracts, residents of Norway also enjoy a number of free days throughout the year.

Norway's approach to public holidays

Many of these days—bank holidays as the Brits call them, helligdager as the Norwegians say—are in place for historical religious reasons, or to mark important days in Norway's history.

If you are visiting Norway on one of these days, you can expect the vast majority of shops and many restaurants and other services to be closed.

In some countries including the UK, public holidays fall on a Monday regardless of the actual date in question. In Norway, public holidays (with some exceptions) fall on a specific date.

This means that there are usually some that fall on a weekend, so the number of actual public holiday days in Norway varies each year. Many of the days fall in May and early June, which can lead to a lot of 3-day or 4-day weeks in the run-up to summer.

In some years we enjoy a lot fewer days off work. Unfortunately, 2020 is one of those years! In 2019, 10 of the 12 holidays fell on working days. This year, it's just eight.

New Year's Day

Tuesday 1 January, 2020: A public holiday in all countries that observe the Gregorian calendar, with the exception of Israel. Norwegians tend to celebrate the evening before in a somewhat more subdued fashion than in other countries.

Fireworks are common, but gatherings tend to be small family-focused affairs. On New Year's Day itself, Norwegians will most likely head to the hills for a hike.

Easter

Thursday 9 – Monday 13 April, 2020: Because of religious traditions, Norway grants three public holidays for Easter. Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter Monday are known in Norwegian as skjærtorsdag, langfredag and andre påskedag respectively.

God Påske - Happy Easter
God Påske ca 1947 by National Library of Norway

Unlike many other vacation days in Norway, these days always fall on the Thursday, Friday and Monday, guaranteeing a long weekend. Many locals take one of the adjacent weeks as holiday. The reason? It creates a week-long holiday at the cost of only three vacation days.

Labour Day

Friday 1 May, 2020: May Day or International Workers Day is observed in around 80 countries around the world and marks the achievements of the organised labour movement.

In Norway, parades organised by labour unions are a common sight in the major towns. They're not hard to miss, just keep an eye out for the red flags. In contrast to the purpose of the day, if the 1st of May falls on a weekend, Norwegians don't get a day off!

Constitution Day

Sunday 17 May, 2020: Without doubt this is the biggest celebration of the year. Norway's national day starts with children's parades in every community. Typically, this is followed by a parade of community groups, live music and other fun activities.

Norwegians celebrate their National Day on 17th May
The 17th May parade

As a foreigner your first syttende mai will surely be a memorable experience. Unfortunately for those of us living in Norway, this year's party falls on a Sunday, meaning no free day off. There will be more than a few sore heads in an office near you this Monday 18th May!

Ascension Day

Thursday 21 May, 2020: Known in Norwegian as Kristi himmelfartsdag, Ascension Day commemorates the ascension of Jesus into heaven 39 days after resurrection on Easter Sunday.

Although the actual date varies wildly each year, it always falls on a Thursday. Some companies offer their employees the Friday off for free. Others encourage their staff to take the Friday as a vacation day.

Whit Monday / Pentecost

Monday 1 June, 2020: Also known as Pentecost, Whit Monday is observed ten days after Ascension Day and therefore always falls on a Monday.

The day commemorates the christian belief in the coming of the Holy Spirit in the form of flames to the Apostles, as recorded in the New Testament. In Norway, the holiday is known as pinse.

Vågån Church is known locally as Lofoten Cathedral and is the largest wooden church in northern Norway
Many Norwegian public holidays are based on the Christian faith.

Christmas Day

Friday 25 December, 2020: Juledag is a public holiday in Norway despite the main family celebrations taking place on Christmas Eve. Although not technically a public holiday, Christmas Eve sees very few people at work, with the main family meal taking place in the evening.

The main festive meal varies by region, with common dishes including lutefisk, pinekjøtt, and baked cod. Read more here about Christmas in Norway.

St. Stephen's Day

Saturday 26 December, 2020: Andre juledag is a much-needed day of relaxation after the indulgence of the Christmas festivities. Much like Easter (and let's face it, pretty much any day of the year!), Norwegians use the day as a reason to get out into the forests and mountains, despite the cold. Once more, this falls on a weekend this year.

Public Holidays in 2021

So, that's 2019 done and dusted! To help with your advance planning, let's go forward in time yet further…

  • New Year's Day: 1 January
  • Easter: 1-5 April
  • Labour Day: 1 May
  • Ascension Day: 13 May
  • Constitution Day: 17 May
  • Whit Monday: 24 May
  • Christmas Day: 25 December
  • St. Stephen's Day: 26 December

I hope you found this post helpful. If so, why not share it so others can benefit? If you use Pinterest, here's a pin for you:

Public Holiday Calendar in Norway

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About the Author: 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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