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The 17th of May – Norway’s National Day

The 17th of May is Norway’s national day, and what a party it is! Though many countries mark their national day with military parades, Norway’s celebration is lighthearted and fun, with a special focus on kids enjoying this special day. In this article, we’ll tell you all about Norway’s Constitution Day, how it began, and how it’s celebrated across Norway today.
Norwegian national suit "Bunad" - 17. May in Norway
Camden Stein / Flickr.com

What is Norway’s national day?

Constitution Day is Norway’s national day, and it’s a public holiday observed on 17 May every year. Norwegians usually refer to the day as ‘17 May’, though it can also be called Nasjonaldagen or Grunnlovsdagen.
Norwegians celebrate 17 May because our constitution was signed on 17 May 1814 at Eidsvoll, making Norway an independent country. The famous Norwegian author Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson wrote the Norwegian national anthem “Ja, vi elsker dette landet”
VisitOSLO/ Thomas Johannessen

How do Norwegians celebrate 17 May?

Norway’s 17 May celebrations are a big deal – it’s basically one big party, with a special focus on kids having fun. Everyone gets dressed up, usually in the traditional Norwegian bunads, and children and adults parade through the streets of big cities and small towns alike, with marching bands playing and people cheering and waving flags as the parade goes past.
A lot of the 17 May festivities are related to fun activities for children. For Norwegian kids, 17 May is one of the most exciting days of the year. Kids spend plenty of time in school preparing for the parade – practicing the songs they’ll sing as they walk, and looking forward to all the fun they’ll have on Norway’s special day. A 17 May breakfast is typical for many Norwegians on this day of celebration, which often involves champagne for the adults. It’s no wonder why kids love 17 May as much as they do – aside from the fun parades and activities, it’s the only day of the year that children are allowed pretty much all the ice cream and hot dogs they can eat! 
If you’re in Norway during 17 May, you’ll likely bear witness to a long-running Norwegian tradition, which is the “russ” – high school graduates who are celebrating coming to the end of their schooling. You can’t miss them as they’re all dressed in red or blue jumpsuits (you may see other colours too, and the colours depend on the type of course they’re taking at school). The russ are usually partying, having fun and giving out “russekort” – personal calling cards with jokes on them that kids love collecting.
"Russ" in Norway in the National Day 17. May - Norway
Akbe / Flickr.com

What are the traditions of 17 May?

Alongside the parades and songs, 17 May is an occasion for Norwegians to dress up in their traditional costumes. The traditional attire for Norway’s national day is bunad, and bunads are an important cultural touchstone for Norwegians. The bunad is a beautiful traditional dress for both men and women.
There are hundreds of different bunads worn across Norway, and the colours, styles and embroidery on the bunad will depend on where the person wearing the bunad is from. No matter where you are in Norway on 17 May, you’ll likely see plenty of these beautiful dresses and outfits as you’re out and about. If you’re interested in Norwegian history and bunads in particular, we would recommend a visit to Norsk Folkemuseum in Oslo, where a range of different bunads are on display and there are plenty of chances to learn about the history of the bunad.
Norwegian National day in Oslo - 17.May in Norway
Petter Hebæk / Flickr.com

Where is the best place to spend 17 May?

If you’re a traveler who will be visiting Norway during the 17 May festivities, you’re in luck! This is a fun day of celebration all across the country, and even in small towns and villages, you’ll be able to see parades. The best place to be in Norway on 17 May is probably Oslo – Norway’s capital sees the biggest parade every year, with around 100 000 people taking part in the parade and festivities in the city center. The parade in Oslo includes children from around 100 schools walking through the city center, stopping at the Royal Palace where the royal family will stand on the balcony and wave to the crowd.
The joyous atmosphere of 17 May is infectious, and no matter where you find yourself you’ll likely have a great time during Norway’s national day. It’s a special time to be in Norway, and it’s easy for visitors to join in the fun by watching the parades. You may not know the songs they’re singing, but you’ll be able to join in with the many cheers of “hurra!” (“hooray”). Keep in mind that 17 May is a public holiday, so shops will usually be closed, and it’s wise to book in advance if you’re going out to eat as restaurants may be busy!
National Day on Trolltunga - 17 May - Odda, Norway
Trolltunga Active

Get to know the Norwegians

The typical Norwegian cherishes nature and embraces the great outdoors. Minimalist in design and lifestyle, they prioritize practicality. Norwegians honor heritage and folklore, fostering a vibrant, inclusive society that blends tradition with a modern, open-minded outlook while embracing sustainability.