Posted by: Sarah | May 20, 2011

17th May In Oslo: A List Of Traditions

The 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 tough but someone had to do it!

Anyway, we’ve lived in Norway for 2 years and this year was my very first “17th May”.  I recorded this video first thing in the morning.


Here’s a list of interesting fun facts I picked up during the week!

  • Norwegians who don’t wear national dress pin 3 ribbons (red, blue and white to represent the flag) to their jacket so it’s close to their heart
  • Our Norwegian teacher baked up a delicious traditional Norwegian cake for the celebration!
  • Most Norwegians will start the day with a champagne breakfast with close family and friends
  • Pretty much every house will fly the Norwegian flag on the 17th May…including ours!
  • Teenagers who are Russ will receive their official Russ Hat the night before 17th May and will be given a Russ Name that will then be painted on the rim of their hat.  It’s like a final graduation ceremony
  • Most women will wear their traditional Bunad dress on the 17th May and the design depends on where their family is from.  Even the silver jewellery is specific to the origin of the Bunad design
  • Apparently, the 17th May is the only day that children can eat as much ice cream as they want
  • Parents are worn out by the end of the day.  They have to get up early and deliver their freshly baked cakes to the local school before parades start at approx 9am followed by a big social event
  • We were woken up at 7am by cannon fire announcing the start of the day…great!
  • The 17th May is celebrated by Norwegians around the world with events often organised by the local Norwegian Embassy
  • Lots of junk food is consumed in large quantities on the 17th May including pølse, bollers and ice-cream
  • The Barnetog (parade of children through Oslo) can last up to 4 hours.  The King, Queen, Crown Prince and his family will stand on the Royal Palace balcony during that time waving to every child

After the main celebrations in Oslo we headed slightly out-of-town for the Kings Guard Drill Display.  This is something performed every year and they are known for their precision .  They were incredible.  Eliot filmed a couple of their routines – I hope you can hear the music.

Have I missed any other traditions on the 17th May?



  1. May 17th is a big deal in Norwegian American communities, too. The Vesterheim Museum in Decorah, Iowa celebrates with day-long activities including dancing, food, speeches, and more. We had lumpa around hotdogs at the Hjemkomst Center here in Fargo-Moorhead. Not quite as exciting, but it was fun.

    • Great to hear from you Denise and how brilliant to know that around the world they really are celebrating! Norwegians are so proud…no matter where they live. So nice. Also love the fact the lumpa potato pancake has made it to America. That is funny.

  2. Thanks for show this post ! I love Norway .
    Hugs from Ibiza


    • Big hugs back Maria. I’m hoping Ibiza is sunny and warm at the moment :-) Feel free to send some sunshine further north!

  3. This is so great, thank you for sharing! I found your blog searching for ideas for my family’s May 17th celebration (in Florida) & love knowing more background on the holiday. My 3rd great grandparents immigrated from Norway to Minnesota, this will be my family’s first year celebrating this holiday. Getting more in touch with our Norwegian roots :-) We always make lefse and sometimes krumkakes at Christmastime. Enjoyed reading through your blog!

    • Hi Katelyn – really glad you liked the post. Wishing you happy 17th May celebration for tomorrow. We’ll be making our way into Oslo so will share some photos!

  4. Men can also wear bunads – they are really nice. I think the only thing looking better than men dressed up in suits during celebrations and weddings are men in bunad! They are very nice, a bit more subtle than the women’s but with special materials, stockings, shoes, shirts etc. Some examples:

    • I agree – and apparently they’re becoming quite trendy for guys these days. More and more of them want to wear them at a young age.

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