Thursday, May 15, 2008

Thursday Thirteen #59: Syttende Mai

This weekend is the annual Syttende Mai celebration in nearby Stoughton, which consists of races, parades, craft displays, a Viking encampment, an arts and crafts fair, and performances by the Stoughton Norwegian Dancers. Though communities around the world celebrate Syttende Mai, many know little or nothing about it. Here’s a primer for those who are unfamiliar.

1. “Syttende Mai” (suht-teh-neh mai) is a Norwegian holiday meaning “May 17th,” and is as big a holiday in Norway as the 4th of July is in the United States.

2. Syttende Mai is the celebration of the Norwegian Constitution. It is not, as many people believe, Norwegian Independence Day, as that came much later.

3. Syttende Mai is the National Day of Norway and is an official national holiday each year. Norwegians refer to it as Syttende Mai, Nasjonaldagen (The National Day) or Grunnlovsdagen (The Constitution Day), though the latter is less frequent.

4. The Constitution of Norway was signed at Eidsvoll on May 17, 1814. The constitution declared Norway to be an independent nation, though independence from Sweden did not come until October 26, 1905.

5. By pure coincidence, WWII ended in Norway nine days before that year's Constitution Day--on May 8, 1945--with the surrender of occupying German forces. Liberation Day is an official flag day in Norway, but is not an official holiday, or widely celebrated. Instead, greater value is given the celebration of Norwegian Independence on May 17.

6. Unlike the US Independence Day, there is little military import associated with the day. Instead, parades of children, many wearing traditional dress called bunad, wave flags and sing as they wind through communities. The significance is that children are the country's future, and therefore it is they who are the patriotic pride.

7. The first offical Children's Parade was announced in Christiania (Oslo) on May 16, 1870--35 years before Norwegian independence. It was organized by Bjornstjerne Bjornson, a controversial patriot, author, political agitator and inspirational speaker. A poem he wrote, "Ja, vi elsker dette landet" (Yes, we love this country), became the national anthem of Norway. The music was written by his cousin, Richard Nordraak.

8. The only military parade of the day is performed by the Royal Guard on the main street of Oslo. During the parade, the Guard display their drill and music skills, rather than military force.

9. The longest children’s parade is in Oslo, where more than 100,000 people travel to participate in festivities. The parade includes 100 schools, marching bands, and passes the royal palace, Slottet, where the royal family greets them.

10. During the parade, children sing songs in celebration of National Day, and the parade ends with the singing of the national anthem "Ja, vi elsker dette landet" and the royal anthem "Kongesangen".

11. Other parades encourage citizens to join in the marching, and many wear traditional dress or sport red, white and blue ribbons.

12. Communities celebrating Syttende Mai across the US include Stoughton, Mount Horeb, and Westby, Wisconsin; Milan and Minneapolis-St Paul, Minnesota; Minot, Fargo, and Grand Forks, North Dakota; Petersburg, Alaska (also known as “Little Norway”); Poulsbo and Seattle, Washington and Chicago, Illinois.

13. Traditional dinners in the US include lutefisk, lefse, fiskeballer (fish soup), smørbrød (open-face sandwiches), and a variety of Norwegian pastries. And believe me, Norway has some seriously delicious pastries: krumkake, sandkake (sand dollars), eplekake (apple cake), rosettes -- and my personal favorite, daimkake.

Links to other Thursday Thirteens:

Alice Audrey * Cassandra/Tempest Knight * Darla
Adelle Laudan * Tara Nichols * Shelley Munro
Debbie Mumford * Nina Pierce * Debora Dennis
Paige Tyler * Morgan St John * Ava Rose
RG Alexander * Ms Menozzi * Gina Ardito
Dana Belfry * December * Angelle Trieste

(leave your link in comments, I’ll add you here!)

The purpose of the meme is to get to know everyone who participates a little bit better every Thursday. Visiting fellow Thirteeners is encouraged! If you participate, leave the link to your Thirteen in others comments. It’s easy, and fun! Be sure to update your Thirteen with links that are left for you, as well! I will link to everyone who participates and leaves a link to their 13 things. Trackbacks, pings, comment links accepted!


Shelley Munro said...

I've never heard of Syttende Mai before but it sounds like fun. Happy TT

Adelle said...

I've never heard of it either. We have a long weekend here in Canada. It's Victoria Day weekend.
Happy T13!

Debora Dennis said...

We don't have that here in NY, but I love parades and this was very interesting. So do you cook the traditional food?

Tara S Nichols said...

I haven't heard of it either, but I always love a party! I hope you have a great one!

Darla said...

I always enjoy learning about other cultures--thanks for explaining Syttende Mai!

Debbie Mumford said...

Very cool information! Thanks for sharing.

Nina Pierce said...

Heather, that is so cool. I had no idea.

Cassandra said...

I've never heard of this either. Nifty info. Kind of makes me wish I wrote historicals.

I've never been to Norway, but I hear it is truly beautiful.

Your T13's are always so informative. Thanks for posting at the MMC, too btw.


Alice Audrey said...

#8 got me. I had just assumed it was independance FROM royalty they celebrated.

Paige Tyler said...

Cool facts!


My TT is at

Bethanne said...

Wonderful T13. I love the idea of a children's parade. thanks for sharing.

Ava Rose Johnson said...

Very cool. I love festivals (and I LOVE eplekake)!

Heather said...

Glad I could entertain and educate all at the same time! I've been going to Syttende Mai in Stoughton almost every year for most of my life, so guess it seems kind of weird sometimes that everyone doesn't celebrate it.

Adelle~ Enjoy your long weekend!

Deborah~ I can make rosettes, but that's about it. I always visit the bakery in Stoughton when there for krumkake and other treats. Haven't had fiskeballe since I was in Norway, though, and remember being surprised how good it was the first time I tried it.

Cass~ Norway is indeed quite beautiful, especially along the fjords, which I was lucky to live along for three months. And the air - it tastes so clean!

Alice~ Nope, Norway does still have a king, whom all the people love. I missed seeing the current king's father by mere minutes when I was in Norway many years ago. Now that would have been cool!

Ava~ Yay! Another in favor of eplekake! *g*

Gina Ardito said...

Looks like a great time! Happy Syttende Mai!

Heather said...

Thanks Gina ~ God Syttende Mai!

Ms Menozzi said...

This is my first time hearing anything about this holiday, but I think it sounds like a lot of fun!

Maybe I'll drag the hubby up for the celebrations next year? ;)

Thanks for sharing! Happy T13!


Nina said...

Yep, eplekake is very yummy indeed. Not that I have ever actually been to the celebrations in Oslo on Syttende Mai. I probably would get frowned at for being the pushy neighbour next door. LOL!

Did you know that the break up of the union in 1905 took place right in my hometown of Karlstad? I pass the place where they signed the papers almost every day. As far as I know they preserved the place as it was. In 2005 there were lots of celebrations and all kinds of events taking place here in memory of the union.

Now I'll go e-mail my Norwegian friend to get the recipe for daimkaker. :)


Heather said...

Nina~ VERY cool connection between Karlstad and Norwegian independence. I did not know that! If you find and try a daimkake recipe, you'll have to tell me how it turns out!