Hot Dogs and Ice Cream: Norway’s Constitution Day

Syttende mai (17th of May) is Norway’s answer to America’s July 4th. There are parades, fancy breakfasts with friends, and lots and lots of ice cream, Solo soda, and hot dogs. It’s alternatively called “children’s day,” (barnas dag) due to the majority of activities being centered around Norway’s children.

The day starts off with a wake-up call from the town’s marching band, proudly belting out national songs and allegiances to country and king. This is when I know it’s time to get up and put on my bunad, a traditional dress for men and women, with variations according to which region your family is from. Although my family is from Rogaland, my grandma scandalously bought a Hardanger bunad, claiming it was the prettiest one. I can’t say I disagree!

Hardanger bunad

My grandmother’s Hardanger bunad

Breakfast is a big feast, with champagne, fruit, shrimp, the works! One must fill up for energy for the parade. 😉

The parades are all about the schoolchildren, so the teachers and students carry the school banner and walk around the town’s sentrum with flags and cheering. Oslo is particularly crowded, full of onlookers and schools as they walk past the palace and wave to the Royal family.

Afterwards, the schools hold a festival, with fun games, more music, and of course: more ice cream and hot dogs. Everyone you meet during the day will greet you with the phrase “Gratulerer med dagen!”, probably with an ice cream in-hand.

There are all sorts of activities and traditional music all over the country and around the world on syttende mai, but nothing beats a day in the capital of Oslo, on a sunny spring day.

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