Celebrate May 17

If there’s one day in Norway every year that is everyone’s favorite, it is without a doubt May 17 (syttende mai) aka National Day (Nasjonaldagen). It’s a day to celebrate the signing of the Constitution of Norway on May 17, 1814. This signing stopped Norway being ceded to Sweden, and instead it became an independent kingdom. As you can imagine, the Swedes are still a bit salty over that one, and the Norwegians couldn’t be happier about that.

So there is much celebration every year on May 17. The day can start in fabulous fashion with champagne for breakfast. From there the Norwegians put on their bunader, traditional Norwegian outfits, and head to the town. There you’ll find many happy (and slightly drunk) Norwegians enjoying the day. You’ll also be treated to a children’s parade (barneparade), a long line of cute kids wearing bunader and waving Norwegian flags proudly.

Be sure to get some ice cream that day as well, and after all that fun (and champagne) you’ll probably be in bed by 6 p.m.

May 17th is a day of immense pride and celebration in Norway. Known as “Syttende Mai” or “Constitution Day,” it commemorates the signing of the Norwegian Constitution on May 17, 1814, and the country’s subsequent declaration of independence from Denmark. This significant day is marked with colorful and lively festivities that bring Norwegians together to express their love for their country and their deep sense of national identity. In this article, we’ll explore the traditions, customs, and the joyous atmosphere that characterizes May 17th in Norway.

Historical Significance

May 17, 1814, holds a special place in Norwegian history. On this day, Norway adopted its own constitution, making it an independent nation-state in a union with Sweden. Although full independence was not achieved until 1905, this day marks a pivotal step towards self-determination and sovereignty.

Traditional Attire

One of the most iconic features of May 17th in Norway is the traditional attire, or “bunad.” A bunad is a meticulously crafted and region-specific folk costume that varies based on the wearer’s heritage. Norwegians of all ages proudly don their bunads on this day, emphasizing their cultural identity and connection to their ancestral roots. The bunad symbolizes the nation’s rich heritage, as each one reflects regional history, customs, and craftsmanship.


May 17th parades are a central element of the celebrations. In cities, towns, and even the smallest of villages, children, adults, and local organizations come together to march through the streets, waving Norwegian flags and singing patriotic songs. Schoolchildren often play a prominent role, proudly displaying their school uniforms and marching bands perform, adding to the festive atmosphere.

The National Anthem

Norway’s national anthem, “Ja, vi elsker dette landet” (Yes, we love this country), is sung with great enthusiasm during the parades and festivities. The song’s lyrics express the deep love and affection Norwegians have for their homeland, and it is a unifying moment during the celebrations.

Flags and Decorations

Norwegian flags are on display everywhere on May 17th. Houses, streets, and public buildings are adorned with the red, white, and blue, creating a sea of patriotic colors. Many people also wear small Norwegian flags as pins or attach them to their clothing.

Children’s Activities

May 17th is a family-oriented celebration, and children are at the heart of the festivities. In addition to participating in parades, children enjoy various activities, such as games, storytelling, and delicious treats like ice cream and hot dogs.

Speeches and Celebrations

May 17th is also marked by speeches, often delivered by local schoolchildren, politicians, and community leaders. These speeches reflect on the significance of the day, celebrate Norway’s history, and emphasize the importance of freedom and democracy.

Traditional Foods

Norwegians often indulge in traditional foods on May 17th. Grilled sausages, pølse med lompe, ice cream, and waffles are popular choices. Additionally, many people gather with friends and family for festive meals that may include traditional Norwegian dishes.


May 17th in Norway is a day filled with joy, pride, and a deep sense of national unity. It’s a celebration of the nation’s history, traditions, and the enduring spirit of independence. Whether in small villages or bustling cities, Norwegians of all backgrounds come together to express their love for their country, don their bunads, and enjoy the festivities. May 17th truly embodies the spirit of Norway and its people.

Becoming Norwegian

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