Celebrating Norway's Independence Day: A Deep Dive into Syttende Mai

Norway's Independence Day, or Syttende Mai (17 May), is a momentous occasion to celebrate freedom, pride in the country, and cultural legacy. The signing of the Norwegian Constitution in 1814, which was a significant turning point in Norway's path to independence, is remembered on this day. Syttende Mai is a joyful and patriotic day that features everything from colorful parades and traditional costumes to moving speeches and celebratory get-togethers. This blog article will discuss the historical significance of Norway's Independence Day, its distinctive traditions and customs, and the various ways that Norwegians celebrate this much-loved occasion.

1. The Historical Significance of Syttende Mai

The Road to Independence

After being under foreign domination for centuries, Norway had a turbulent route to independence. Norway was a part of a union with Denmark for more than 400 years, yet during that time, its bigger neighbor frequently took center stage. Significant political unrest was brought to Europe by the Napoleonic Wars (1803–1815), and Norway was not exempt from this. The Treaty of Kiel, which was signed in 1814, gave Swedish authority over Norway after Denmark's loss in the wars. But the surge of patriotic enthusiasm that was sweeping through Europe gave the Norwegians the idea to grab the opportunity to establish their own country.

The Constitution of 1814

Representatives from all throughout Norway came together in Eidsvoll on May 17, 1814, to write and ratify a constitution that would establish Norway as a sovereign state. The democratic principles of the American and French revolutions had an impact on the progressive nature of the 1814 Constitution. It delineated the essential liberties and privileges of Norwegian citizens and instituted a constitutional monarchy. The Norwegian constitution continued to be a source of pride and self-determination even after the country joined Sweden in union.

Full Independence Achieved

The spirit of independence did not fade, even though the union with Sweden lasted for almost a century. Growing nationalist feelings and political differences by the early 20th century caused the union to dissolve peacefully. The Norwegian parliament (Storting) unilaterally dissolved the union with Sweden on June 7, 1905. Later that year, a vote confirmed this decision, and Prince Carl of Denmark was crowned King Haakon VII of Norway, establishing Norway's independence.

2. Traditions and Customs of Syttende Mai

Children’s Parades

The nationwide children's marches, or barnetog, are one of the most memorable and endearing features of Syttende Mai. Children in vibrant traditional costumes, waving Norwegian flags, and singing national songs lead these school-organized marches. Tens of thousands of youngsters march through the streets of Oslo during the biggest parade, which passes past the Royal Palace, where the royal family waves to the audience from the balcony. The poignancy of the day's significance is brought to light by the image of happy children enjoying their heritage.

Traditional Costumes

On Syttende Mai, Norwegians take great satisfaction in donning their bunad, or traditional costumes. Every bunad design reflects the history, culture, and handicrafts of the respective region. These elaborate costumes are treasured family keepsakes since they are frequently handmade and handed down through the years. Donning a bunad is a symbol of Norwegian identity and a method to respect and maintain the rich cultural legacy of the nation.

Festive Foods

Delicious cuisine is a must-have for any celebration, and Syttende Mai is no exception. You can savor traditional Norwegian fare and sweets all day long. Popular delicacies include rømmegrøt (sour cream porridge), pølse med lompe (sausage wrapped in a flatbread), and a variety of koldtbord (cold buffet) dishes with cured meats, cheeses, and seafood. A must-have for the party are sweets like almond ring cake and layered cream cake, bløtkake and kransekake. Children particularly enjoy soda and ice cream, which heightens the celebratory mood.

Speeches and National Anthem

The national anthem, "Ja, vi elsker dette landet" (meaning "Yes, We Love This Land"), and patriotic speeches are essential components of the Syttende Mai festivities. These remarks, made by dignitaries and local leaders, discuss Norway's accomplishments, history, and future goals. The national song, composed by Rikard Nordraak and penned by Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson, is sung with tremendous pride and enthusiasm, bringing Norwegians together in a common expression of national identity.

3. Modern Celebrations

Inclusivity and Community Spirit

With time, Syttende Mai has changed to become a more welcoming and accurate representation of Norway's multicultural community. Modern festivities emphasize multiculturalism and the contributions of immigrant groups while maintaining the essential traditional aspects. People from different backgrounds participate in the parades and festivities, demonstrating the inclusivity of the Norwegian people and their sense of solidarity and pride in their country.

International Celebrations

Syttende Mai is also observed by Norwegian populations abroad, who use it as an opportunity to introduce a little bit of Norway to their new homes. Expats and descendants of Norwegian immigrants come together to celebrate their heritage and establish ties to their cultural origins from all around the world, including Australia. To promote a sense of continuity and belonging, these international festivals frequently include parades, cultural shows, and traditional Norwegian cuisine.

Environmental Awareness

During the Syttende Mai celebrations, there has been an increasing focus on sustainability and environmental concern in recent years. Using reusable decorations and reducing plastic use are just two examples of the eco-friendly practices that many communities are promoting and reducing waste with. This change is a reflection of Norway's dedication to environmental care and their wish to celebrate in a way that honors and preserves the environment.


Beyond merely being a national holiday, Syttende Mai is an emotional commemoration of Norway's continuing commitment to democracy, freedom, and cultural legacy. Norway's Independence Day celebrations are a testament to the tenacity and cohesion of its people, spanning from the momentous 1814 signing of the Constitution to the lively and inclusive events of today. In addition to honoring their history, Norwegians celebrate the future with pride, hope, and unceasing advancement as they don their bunads, fly their flags, and assemble with loved ones.

Syttende Mai is a day to commemorate the ideals that make Norway unique, whether you are in the center of Oslo or a Norwegian community living overseas. These values include freedom, equality, and a close connection to both the natural world and history. Raise your flag, participate in the procession, and allow the festive spirit of Syttende Mai to uplift you, as it has done for more than 200 years for generations of Norwegians. Greetings for the day, Norway! (Norway, congratulations on the day).

Let's briefly explain all important points.

1. The Historical Significance of Syttende Mai

Norway’s Path to Independence

Syttende Mai, or May 17, has historical significance since it marks the signing of the Constitution in 1814, a pivotal event in Norwegian history. Understanding the background of Norway's protracted struggle for sovereignty and self-determination is necessary in order to properly appreciate this event.

Norway was considered the junior partner to Denmark for the more than 400 years that it was a part of their union. Danish culture and language permeated every aspect of life, from politics and economics to language and culture. Geopolitical changes brought about by the Napoleonic Wars, which raged across Europe from 1803 to 1815, had a direct effect on Norway's destiny.

Denmark, which had sided with Napoleon, lost the war in 1814. As a result, Norway was given to the Swedish king by the Treaty of Kiel, which was signed in January 1814, as payment for Sweden losing Finland to Russia. The Norwegians, however, did not accept this transfer of power in a passive manner. Nationalists in Norway used the opportunity to declare their nation's independence. This decision created the framework for what would happen in the spring of 1814.

The Eidsvoll Assembly and the Constitution of 1814

To establish a constitution for an independent Norway, a national assembly was called to Eidsvoll, a tiny town north of Oslo, in April 1814. Eleven2 delegates from different areas and socioeconomic backgrounds participated in the assembly, representing a wide range of Norwegian society. These delegates, inspired by the democratic ideals upheld by the American and French revolutions, participated in intensive debates and deliberations over the period of six weeks.

The assembly's work came to an end on May 17, 1814, when the Norwegian Constitution was signed. For its day, this document was incredibly advanced. It created a constitutional monarchy, curtailed the king's authority, and divided the powers of the legislative, executive, and judicial departments. It also protected essential liberties and rights such the freedom of assembly, speech, and religion.

Norway made a clear declaration of its intention to become an independent country when it signed the Constitution. Norway's new monarch is Prince Christian Frederick of Denmark, who supported Norwegian independence. But there were many obstacles in the way of achieving full independence.

The Swedish-Norwegian Union

The world community took some time to acknowledge Norway's sovereignty despite its proclamation of independence and the drafting of a constitution. Under King Charles XIII, Sweden was committed to upholding the conditions of the Kiel Treaty. Forces from Sweden and Norway engaged in a short-lived but fierce battle in the summer of 1814.

On August 14, 1814, the Convention of Moss brought an end to the conflict. Norway recognized Charles XIII as its king and established a personal union with Sweden as a result of this agreement. Crucially, though, the accord let Norway keep its recently ratified constitution, albeit with minor changes made to make room for the union. By making this sacrifice, Norway was guaranteed a good amount of autonomy, complete with its own parliament (Storting) and governmental structures.

The Path to Full Independence

Even when the union with Sweden ended about a century ago, Norwegian nationalism grew stronger. Significant social and economic changes occurred in Norway during the 19th century, which stoked the country's desire for more independence. National identity was further reinforced by the emergence of a Norwegian cultural renaissance, which was marked by a resurgence of interest in Norwegian literature, language, and customs.

Political and economic tensions between Sweden and Norway had reached a breaking point by the early 1900s. The momentous act of the Norwegian parliament unilaterally announcing the breakup of the union with Sweden on June 7, 1905, was taken. A plebiscite was held in response to this audacious move, and the vast majority of Norwegians cast ballots in favor of independence.

Peaceful negotiations between Norway and Sweden led to the official separation of the union on October 26, 1905. When Prince Carl of Denmark accepted Norway's offer of the throne and assumed the name King Haakon VII, a fully autonomous Norwegian monarchy was established.

Syttende Mai: A Symbol of Freedom and Unity

Since then, Syttende Mai has grown to be a potent representation of Norwegian independence, solidarity, and patriotism. This day is celebrated because it is ingrained in the national memory and serves as a reminder of the timeless principles found in the 1814 Constitution. Vibrant parades, especially the children's marches, commemorate the day and emphasize how crucial it is for future generations to uphold the history of independence.

Wearing the bunad, Norway's traditional garment, with pride represents the rich cultural legacy that has been valued and conserved over the ages. On this day, speeches and celebrations frequently touch on the historical significance of the Constitution as well as the continuous dedication to democratic values and human rights.

International Recognition and Modern Celebrations

Syttende Mai is also observed by Norwegian communities worldwide, highlighting the significance of Norway's independence struggle on a global scale. By highlighting the universal ideals of freedom and self-determination, these international festivals help Norwegians residing overseas feel connected and proud of their country.

Syttende Mai is a strong display of national identity in a modern, multicultural society in Norway, as well as a historical remembrance. The inclusiveness of the day honors the celebration's historical roots while reflecting Norway's growth and the assimilation of different cultural influences.


Syttende Mai is significant historically because it honors Norway's protracted and valiant independence movement. Norway's journey is a monument to the tenacity and cohesion of its people, starting with the drafting of the Constitution in 1814, which established the groundwork for a democratic and sovereign nation, and ending peacefully with the dissolving of the union with Sweden in 1905. Generations of Norwegians have been inspired to appreciate and uphold freedom, democracy, and cultural heritage by Syttende Mai, a celebration of these things.

2. Traditions and Customs of Syttende Mai

In Norway, May 17th, also known as Syttende Mai, is a day filled with great pride as it marks the signing of the Norwegian Constitution in 1814. There are several customs and traditions associated with this day that showcase the nation's historical significance, sense of community, and cultural legacy. Syttende Mai brings Norwegians together with joy and patriotism through its many traditions, including colorful children's parades, elaborate traditional costumes, and festive cuisine. Here, we examine the numerous customs and traditions that contribute to the uniqueness of this day.

Children’s Parades (Barnetog)

The children's marches, or barnetog, are one of the most cherished and unique customs of Syttende Mai. Schools all throughout the nation organize these parades, in which kids play in school bands, march through the streets while carrying Norwegian flags and singing patriotic songs. In Oslo, nearly 100,000 people participate in the biggest and most well-known procession, which includes tens of thousands of youngsters.

The royal family waves at the parade participants from the balcony of the Royal Palace in Oslo, a gesture that emphasizes the country's togetherness and pride. The parades led by youngsters represent the spirit of independence that endures on Syttende Mai, as well as hope for the future and future generations.

Traditional Costumes (Bunad)

The main element of Syttende Mai celebrations is the wearing of bunad, or traditional Norwegian costumes. Every location has a different bunad, with distinctive stitching, colors, and designs that pay homage to the history and culture of that area. These elaborately detailed, handcrafted costumes are treasured family treasures that have been handed down through the years.

The bunad is a representation of Norwegian pride and identity, not only festive wear. People of various ages wear their bunads on Syttende Mai, which enhances the lively and colorful mood of the festivities. The sight of thousands of individuals decked out in these exquisite costumes is evidence of Norway's rich cultural legacy and the pride that its citizens have in their customs.

Festive Foods

The Syttende Mai celebrations revolve heavily around food, with people indulging in traditional Norwegian fare and sweets all day long. Among the dishes that are popular are:
  • Pølse med lompe: Norwegian-style hot dogs with sausages encased in delicious flatbread. It is a favorite of both kids and adults.

  • Rømmegrøt: A thick and creamy sour cream porridge that's frequently topped with melted butter, sugar, and cinnamon. Many Norwegians connect this traditional meal with holiday celebrations.

  • Koldtbord: A cold buffet with a selection of foods such salads, smoked salmon, cheeses, and cured meats. It's a lovely arrangement that promotes sharing and group meals.

  • Bløtkake: A multi-layered cream cake adorned with Norwegian flags and delicious berries. For Syttende Mai festivities, this cake is a traditional dessert.

  • Kransekake: A tower-shaped cake made of almond rings that is adorned with tiny flags and icing. It is a well-liked option for noteworthy events.
Children particularly enjoy soda and ice cream on Syttende Mai, which adds to the day's happy and celebratory vibe.

Speeches and the National Anthem

Syttende Mai is not complete without national song singing and patriotic speeches. Usually spoken by dignitaries, legislators, and local leaders, these speeches discuss Norway's goals, accomplishments, and history. Commonly highlighted topics like freedom, democracy, and national unity serve to remind people of the principles that guide the festivities.

Rikard Nordraak composed "Ja, vi elsker dette landet" ("Yes, We Love This Land"), which is sung with tremendous pride and zeal. It was penned by Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson. The song is a potent symbol of national identity since its lyrics portray the tenacity of the Norwegian people and the beauty of its landscapes.

Flag Waving

On Syttende Mai, the Norwegian flag is a common sight. At parades and rallies, people of all ages wave flags, and houses and buildings are decorated with banners and flags. The Norwegian flag's red, white, and blue colors stand for the nation's freedom and independence. For Norwegians, waving the flag is a straightforward but effective way to show their love and pride for their nation.

Community Gatherings and Social Events

Syttende Mai is a day for social events and community get-togethers as well. When families and friends get together to celebrate, they frequently begin the day with a festive breakfast that consists of homemade pastries and traditional foods. Numerous towns host activities like concerts, public speaking engagements, and traditional dances, fostering a vibrant and welcoming environment.

The Russetog

Apart from the kid-focused parades, Syttende Mai also hosts an exclusive march called the russetog, which is coordinated by high school seniors, also called russ. Depending on their field of study, the russ wear unique red or blue overalls. They celebrate the conclusion of the school year with boisterous events and practical jokes. The festivities are made more enjoyable and energetic by the russetog, which embodies the exuberance and youthfulness of Syttende Mai.

Inclusivity and Multicultural Celebrations

Even though Syttende Mai has a long history in Norway, the nation's multicultural society is becoming more and more evident in the celebrations of the holiday today. Participating in the celebration are people from all cultures and backgrounds, which makes it a more inclusive and diverse event. The range of cuisines, musical styles, and cultural manifestations that are celebrated on this day demonstrate this inclusivity and emphasize how Norway has evolved as a nation.

Environmental Awareness

During the Syttende Mai celebrations, there has been an increasing focus on sustainability and environmental consciousness in recent years. Numerous localities are making efforts to cut waste and encourage environmentally friendly behaviors. Reusable décor, less plastic, and recycling promotion are examples of initiatives that are becoming more widespread and demonstrate Norway's dedication to environmental care.


For Norwegians, Syttende Mai is an extremely important holiday that honors their independence, culture, and sense of self. From the happy children's parades and bunad wearing to the group dinners and patriotic speeches, the rituals and traditions connected to this day weave a complex tapestry of cultural expressions that bring the nation together in a sense of pride and joy. Syttende Mai is still a beloved festival that embraces the future and pays tribute to the past, highlighting the lively customs and enduring values that characterize this extraordinary country even as it continues to change.

3. Modern Celebrations of Syttende Mai

The most important national holiday in Norway is Syttende Mai, or May 17, which honors the signing of the Norwegian Constitution in 1814. The Syttende Mai celebration has changed over time to embrace contemporary ideals while upholding long-standing traditions, reflecting the nation's shifting social structure. Currently, Syttende Mai is a lively, welcoming celebration that highlights Norway's rich cultural past, sense of patriotism, and sense of community. We shall look at how Syttende Mai is celebrated now in Norway and in Norwegian communities abroad in this post.

Inclusivity and Diversity

The inclusiveness of contemporary Syttende Mai festivities is one of its defining features. Norway is a multicultural country, and the celebrations show this. Participating in the parades and activities are people from a variety of backgrounds, honoring not only Norwegian heritage but also the pluralism that strengthens the country.

You will observe a mixture of different ethnic communities' clothes and traditional Norwegian bunads in numerous cities. This combination demonstrates how well Norway's many cultures cohabit. The fact that immigrants and their descendants actively participate in the festivities, exhibiting their distinct cultural contributions while respecting Norway's history and traditions, highlights Syttende Mai's inclusive attitude.

Urban and Rural Celebrations

Both urban and rural communities celebrate Syttende Mai with equal zeal, while the events themselves can differ greatly. The festivities are lavish and extravagant in big cities like Trondheim, Bergen, and Oslo. The centerpiece of the day's activities is the largest children's parade, which takes place in Oslo. A strong sense of national unity is fostered when the participants are greeted by the royal family as the march passes past the Royal Palace.

The festivities are just as lively but more private in rural places. Smaller towns frequently plan neighborhood get-togethers, parades, and customary sports. As neighbors gather to celebrate their common heritage, a strong sense of community spirit and friendship permeates the area. The spirit of Syttende Mai is the same whether it is observed in a busy metropolis or a sleepy village: a joyous celebration of freedom and patriotism.

Modern Parades

The barnetog, or traditional children's parades, are still a major part of Syttende Mai, although contemporary parades now feature a wider range of groups and themes. Schools, organizations, corporations, and cultural groups all take part in the celebrations, each contributing their own special touch. The parades are bright events with dancing, music, and brightly colored floats.

The russetog, or parade of high school graduates, has grown in prominence alongside the kid-only parades. The russ, decked out in colorful overalls, wildly celebrate their upcoming graduation. Their march adds a modern touch to the traditional festivities with humorous antics, music, and the giving of russekort, or personalized business cards, to younger children.

Technological Integration

The Syttende Mai celebrations have embraced technology in the digital age. Social media sites are overflowing with updates, pictures, and videos that document the day's activities. People can connect with others celebrating globally by sharing their experiences using hashtags like #SyttendeMai and #17Mai.

Norwegians living overseas can now take part remotely in parades and events via live streaming. By integrating technology, Syttende Mai's spirit is guaranteed to transcend geographic borders and unite the Norwegian community worldwide in a common celebration.

Environmental Consciousness

During the Syttende Mai celebrations, there has been an increasing focus on sustainability and environmental consciousness in recent years. Numerous towns are acting proactively to reduce the celebrations' negative environmental effects. Public transportation promotion, the use of recyclable materials, and the reduction of plastic waste are examples of initiatives that are gaining support.

Parades and other gatherings are starting to include environmentally friendly activities. For instance, some parades now have recycled-material floats, and the organizers advise attendees to bring reusable things rather than single-use ones. This move toward sustainability is in line with Norway's larger objectives of encouraging green living and demonstrates the nation's dedication to environmental preservation.

Culinary Traditions with a Modern Twist

Modern culinary trends have also made an appearance at Syttende Mai celebrations, however traditional meals still play a major role. Even if traditional foods like rømmegrøt (sour cream porridge), blætkake (layered cream cake), and sausages with flatbread (pølse med lompe) are still appreciated by many, new dishes and cuisines from around the world have gained popularity as well.

It's normal to see food trucks and street sellers serving a range of cuisines, from international cuisine to traditional Norwegian fare, throughout the festivities. This variety of cuisines allows people to celebrate the national holiday with a variety of flavors, which represents the inclusive aspect of contemporary Syttende Mai.

International Celebrations

With the same fervor as those in Norway, Norwegian communities throughout commemorate Syttende Mai. Expats and descendants of Norwegian immigrants host parades, cultural events, and social gatherings to celebrate their ancestry across the United States, Canada, Australia, and South Africa.

To foster a feeling of national identity, traditional Norwegian music, dances, and cuisine are frequently featured during these international festivals. In order to ensure that the spirit of Syttende Mai is felt around the world, Norwegian consulates and embassies are essential to the planning and execution of these celebrations. These festivities serve as a reminder of the profound influence of Norwegian culture and the strong sense of national identity that the Norwegian diaspora shares with one another.

Community Engagement and Volunteerism

Volunteering and community involvement are also highlighted in contemporary Syttende Mai celebrations. Volunteers from the community plan a large portion of the day's activities, giving of their time and energy to make sure everything goes properly. The strong sense of community and solidarity that permeates Norwegian society is demonstrated by this volunteerism.

Volunteers frequently plan parades and other events in addition to performing community service tasks like tidying up neighborhood parks and open areas after festivities. This emphasis on civic duty and community building strengthens the ideals of collaboration and support among one another as well as our shared sense of pride.

Cultural Performances and Exhibitions

Exhibitions and cultural events are essential components of contemporary Syttende Mai festivities. Norway's rich cultural legacy is presented through theatrical productions, art exhibitions, and folk music and dance events. Several towns and localities host entertainment-packed concerts with local bands, choirs, and artists to promote cultural pride.

Dance groups clad in bunads conduct traditional folk dances like the halling and the springar. These performances celebrate the significance of classic art forms in today's world while highlighting the need to preserve them. Local artists' creations, which typically represent historical topics as well as contemporary interpretations of Norwegian identity, are a common component in art exhibitions.

Educational Activities

Nowadays, Syttende Mai celebrations are not complete without educational activities, especially for the youth. Workshops, talks, and interactive sessions are frequently held by educational institutions and community groups to teach people about the significance of the day historically, the 1814 Constitution, and the principles of democracy and freedom.

The younger generation is intended to gain a sense of civic duty and pride in their country through these activities. Children understand the significance of Syttende Mai and the value of keeping its traditions deeper when they study about the history and cultural heritage of their nation.


Syttende Mai celebrations today represent Norway's changing identity and values through a dynamic fusion of tradition and modern customs. Syttende Mai is a vibrant and significant holiday because of its global orientation, emphasis on sustainability, integration of technology, inclusivity and diversity, and global nature of the celebrations.

In addition to embracing the future and uniting to celebrate their common heritage and sense of pride in their country, Norwegians also promote a sense of solidarity and shared duty. Generations of people have been motivated to preserve freedom, democracy, and cultural diversity by Syttende Mai, who continues to be a potent emblem of these ideals and the distinctive character of Norway.