It’s 17th May, the day Norway’s constitution was signed in 1814. A little confusing because Norway technically remained under Swedish rule for the better part of the 19th Century.
But why let such minor historical details get in the way of a good party, and believe me 17th May, or syttende mai as it’s known in Norwegian, is one BIG party. Flags are raised everywhere. Celebratory breakfasts kick off at 6am with smoked salmon, herring, prawns, spekemat (cured lamb), delicious bread, cheese, cake (lots of cake) and of course, beer and aquavit. And champagne if you’re feeling flush. There is much singing of song, especially once the aquavit’s been passed around.
Adults and children dress up in formal clothing or the traditional bunad, the equivalent of a Scottish kilt except both girls and boys wear it. This year there is even a competition for Norway’s Best Bunad, with a year’s supply of ice cream as the top prize. As you might have guessed, I already looked into entering the competition, but the logistics of shipping one year’s supply of Norwegian ice cream to the UK means I can’t enter, damnit. Anyway, I may not win a year’s supply of ice cream (sob) but don’t you reckon the bunad below would’ve been a contender?
Food and drink are central to celebrations. Especially – I kid you not – hot dogs. If you’re in London pop down to the Scandi Kitchen today and try one, or go join the ex-pat ‘Weegies in Southwark Park for official 17th May celebrations hosted by the the Norwegian Embassy. Next year I plan to be in Norway on 17th May, as today I have marooned myself indoors to work on a PhD proposal, so no celebrations sadly. Below are a few photos of what you might find on the streets, in the homes and in cafes and restaurants across Norway today…