Posted by: Eliot | May 18, 2010

Born on the 17th May

17 May.  Norwegian National day.

Having had a better offer Sarah decided to give the first Norwegian National day since we moved to Norway a miss, so it was down to me to jump into a day of flags and Bunards.  As if anyone could think meeting Richard Branson and Duran Duran would be a better option?

The weather was good and the view from the bedroom first thing shows the Norwegians get up early on May 17th – and make sure their flags are on flying (Left)

"Norwegian National Day" Flags

I headed down to the bus stop and encountered the first interesting event of the day.  Two teenage girls running for the bus.  The thing is one of them was wearing a Bunad.  This is the Norwegian national dress – and whilst it can look very smart and often colourful, one thing they are not practical for is running in…  One of the girls was trying to hold the massive skirt up to her knees whilst trying to keep up with her friend.  When I drove past she waved me down and asked for a lift – so in the spirit of the day I gave them a lift to the bus stop… …75 meters down the road – I think it would have been quicker for them to have carried on ‘running’.

I got on the bus and was immediately met be an unusual sight.  I had heard that the Norwegians all dressed up for the day – but I was not really ready for a bus full of suits and Bunads – now I was glad I had dressed smartly. 

15 minutes of being thrown around later (I don’t think the bus driver will ever be a chauffeur) the bus arrived at Oslo central station.  People Everywhere.  Bunads Everywhere.    There were also street vendors selling helium filled animals everywhere – what has that got to do with 17th May?  

 Half way up Karl Johan’s Gate there was a really good male voice choir (although obviously not as good as a certain other choir mentioned in a previous entry…) entertaining the waiting crowds.  There were also a couple of other bands entertaining the waiting crowds…


Some of the crowd appeared to have a better (and more expensive view) than others…


 Looks like someone is buying the inflatable animals – and someone else went for a compromise…


 Use #427 for a Norwegian child carrying device – a makeshift flagpole… 

Everywhere I went people were saying ‘Gratulerer med dagen’ – which I thought meant ‘Happy Birthday’ – so my conclusion is that, like Queen Elizabeth, Norwegians have 2 birthdays – but unlike her majesty and, in the traditional Norwegian interests of fairness and equality, everyone gets a second birthday.  QED – all Norwegians are born on 17th May!  With the crowds getting a bit much I decided I wasn’t going to get any closer to the palace.  Looking back down Karl Johan’s Gate – the start of the children’s parade is coming…

Leading the way…the Norwegian Mounties and the first of many bands…


The idea of the parade is that all the kids in Oslo get the chance to March through the city centre and wave at HRH King Harald.  Each school had a banner, a band and then a group of children behind.  There were also loads of children carrying some pretty big flags as well.  For the smaller children they rope them all together to stop them escaping…or possibly they are just holding the ropes with the promise of an ice-cream if they don’t let go?  Either way they all seemed to be on best behaviour for his majesty.

For some the flags clearly got too heavy following the hike up Karl Johan’s.  Here we see Norwegian improvisation when the correct flag carrying attire is missing – closely followed by a little girl who appears to have all the correct flag carrying equipment – but has forgotten something rather important…


Some of the bands had mascots on sticks – but seeing this on multiple occasions really makes you wonder if the entire membership of the Norwegian Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Barbie had been given a tip-off about a parade in Svalbard…?

Now as you can imagine the number of schools in Oslo is quite large – so the parade does go on for some time.  Time to wake up though – King Harald is just up ahead…


May 17th also marks the end of Russ.  This means that even if you are in the band and stand out like a sore thumb you are not wearing the band uniform – the red trousers take priority every time.  (Note to readers – the red trousers are not a fashion statement – they are a warning – keep away – I have been wearing the same trousers for a month and they have not been washed!) 


And here is someone escaped from the Queens Art Choir post

Two hours later – and they’re still coming.  Time to see what else is going on. 

 Getting a bit busy around Karl Johan’s Gate as well…


Some of the braver Norwegian children ignore the danger signs to get hold of the precious Russ cards.  You will see that blue (and indeed sometimes yellow, black etc) also means ‘danger – unwashed dungarees’ during Russ…


 …and finally.  Considering this is the children’s parade on the Norwegian National day and King Harald is up there less than 50 meters away I think my choice of music would have been slightly different…


  1. Sarah!

    How delightful! What a way to spend a morning! Thanks so much for sharing your experiences.

    Mary Eileen

  2. […] where the local community all come together for a big tidy up.  This often happens before the Norwegian National Day on May 17th.  I think there’s an expectation that the country needs to look at its best in time for […]

  3. […] 17th of May is a big day in Norway.  It’s the National Day.  Last year Eliot spent it alone because I was working hard in Frankfurt meeting Richard Branson and Duran Duran – it was […]

  4. […] for Norwegians.  We’ve written a couple of posts on the blog before about this celebration (here and here) but today I received a comment from a Norwegian lady who lives in Oregon, USA.  I took a […]

  5. I love it when people get together and share ideas. Great blog, continue the good work!

    • Awww – cheers Rochell!

  6. Thanks for finally writing about >Born on the 17th May | A New Life In Norway <Loved it!

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