Syttende Mai, or Norwegian Constitution Day

Holmenkollen, Oslo 1985

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?

First proper bunad, 1986

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…

Hot dog a la Scandi Kitchen

Norway's answer to Marmite: brown cheese!

Caviar from a tube, soft-boiled egg, dill, Peter's Yard crispbread. Heaven.

Smoked salmon and black pepper on crispbread

Sweet prawn, egg and fish roe on rye bread at Madsen, London

Good bread, an integral part of the 17th May smorgasbord

Lamb and veal meatballs, lingonberry sauce, cabbage, potatoes...

Blackcurrant ice cream in a lemon-nutmeg krumkake (cone)

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7 Responses to Syttende Mai, or Norwegian Constitution Day

  1. Niamh says:

    Fab! I want everything there especially the Blackcurrant ice cream in a lemon-nutmeg krumkake , brown cheese and the fab looking hot dog. Who can say no to a good party?! Not I. Hope youb grab a few moments to enjoy!

  2. goodshoeday says:

    As far as I can tell the Norwegians don’t need it to be 17 May to put the flags out – any minor excuse and they are hauling them up the flag pole.
    Do you have kransekake on 17 May or is that for other celebrations?

    • Haha, yes this is true. Any excuse to raise the flag ;0 As I recall we did have kransekake to celebrate, definitlely had blotkake which you’re familiar with!

  3. Thanks Niamh! Next year if I don’t make it over to Norway for 17th May will throw a big party to celebrate properly :)

  4. shayma says:

    such a darling photo of you! and with regards to the food photos- the meatballs with lingonberry sauce are my *fave*. xx shayma

  5. Verity says:

    I love the look of the brown cheese – not something I’ve ever encountered before!

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