May 17th is sorta an important day in Norway... ok, ok, ok. It's THE MOST important day in Norway. Since Norway has always been, more or less, an independent nation (or rather grouping of marauding Vikings... whichever term you prefer), it treats the day the Constitution (or most recent iteration of their government) was signed (1814, if you're keeping track at home) as their day to celebrate all things Norway. Ever since I arrived here, I have been, constantly, told that "nothing compares to it" that it is amazing and quite the spectacle (in a good way).
You know what? It was a pretty dope affair.
The first thing that caught my attention were the parades... oh, the parades. There were three altogether. Children's, Adult, and Military. We opted for the children's version and were witness to ALL the children of Oslo. Oslo is a little smaller than Baltimore (or Seattle) so, as you can imagine, that's a lot of kids. They each had the banner from their school, or social group, and each kid was waving a flag. The parade route went all the way to the Royal Palace where the King, himself, greeted each participant from his balcony several stories up. The crowd joined in singing along to the national anthem (seriously, that thing has like a dozen verses) and random shouts of "hip hip hooray!". In the distance, the Akers Fortress cannon fired off a few dozen times to let us know that the celebration was on.
As you can see in my video, there were a lot of people here to see the parade and celebrate the National Day. It felt like every person in the greater Oslo area turned up and I can, honestly, say that there have been few other events I have attended where there were more people.
Another fun part of the day is that its tradition to eat ice cream and sausages. Fine by me, after about ten minutes, I had a strawberry ice cream in one hand and a sausage in potato wrap in the other standing shoulder to shoulder with my new countrymen. Many of them had on the traditional bunad while, a lot like me, were just in suits (though, other traditional clothing was welcome... there were a fair amount of dashikis).
|This guy won the award for best bunad... oh, I'm mean mugging someone who cut in front of my picture... Norwegians can be jerks|
Though, the highlight of the day (ok... one of the highlights. The Russ impromptu dance party was pretty awesome, too. I promise to write an article about that on Friday) was attending an international function after the parade. There was free champagne and really good finger food (really, REALLY good shrimp). Oh, did I mention the champagne was free?
Altogether, it really gave me some perspective on this odd nation. Sure, Norwegians may be reserved and inwardly focused, but they love their own country and coming together to celebrate it. While I still feel somewhat apart from this place and have questions than answers, at times, I understand celebrating your history and hopes for the future. Seeing all the other people, of various ethnic backgrounds, gave me a sense that there was room here for everyone willing to do their part. I look forward to my next May 17th and I hope that it happens here in Oslo.
Alt for Norge