The Study Abroad Newsletter

The Seventeenth of May, Norway’s National Holiday

Jenna Harburg
University of Bergen, Norway

Norway’s national holiday is a huge event. Most Norwegians are not very nationalistic, and they often speak harshly of their government, even though from an American point of view it is light years ahead of our own. But on the 17th of May, every Norwegian is out and proud- screaming, singing, cheering on the king and willing to talk your ear off about how much they love their country.

I spent the holiday with a Norwegian friend, Jorgen, and his family and girlfriend. We had a very traditional breakfast together, full of sheep sausage, rommegrot (a porridge made of sour cream, butter, and sugar) fresh cheeses and lots of bread. My Norwegian is minimal, but I still had an excellent conversation with his 8-year-old sister. Almost all Norwegians (but mostly women) wear their traditional costume, or Bunad, for the holiday, including Jorgen and his family.

After our breakfast, we went in to the heart of the city for the traditional parade, and the city was filled to the brim with people in their Bunads. The style changes depending upon the region ones family is from, but they are all beautiful.

A guard stand solemnly while a colorful hat is waved in front of the camera next to him

Standing in the crowd at the parade, wearing formal clothing and waving my Norwegian flag, a traditional rosette with the royal seal pinned to my chest, I felt almost Norwegian. I cheered for the local football (soccer) club, I sang the national anthem, I waved at all of the children and felt some strange sort of pride when looking at the people around me. It was like nothing I have ever known, and I am certain I will never forget it. (I should mention that when the king sang the national anthem over the radio, Jorgen had to fight back tears.)