Faculty of Law

On the 17th of May, the National celebration packs the streets with joy

On the 17th of May takes place one of the most important celebrations in Norway, and possibly one of the biggest National day celebrations across the world.

Picture of the city centre in Bergen filled with people
On the 17th of May, Norwegians and foreigners fill the main streets in the city to watch the parades.
Carlota Fernández de la Cancela

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The National Day

From the first day of May, one could feel the excitement grow bigger and bigger with each day that went by. Soon enough, and with some help from a few very sunny and warm days in a row, flowers in red, white and blue started blooming in the center of Bergen, garnishing every corner. Stores started decorating their establishments with flags and balloons, and Norwegians and foreigners began planning the big day that was approaching.

On the 17th of May of 1814, Norway was declared an independent kingdom. On that day every year, Norwegians dress up in their finest clothes and celebrate by taking over the streets and participating in parades and events throughout the whole day.

It was no different in the beautiful city of Bergen this year. Our apartment in the city center was ready and decorated with candles, flags and napkins bearing the three most important colors of this day. Friends from different countries came over to start the day in the best way possible, filling our bellies with some delicious Norwegian treats. We started with smoked salmon and scrambled eggs, and finished with an all-time-favorite Norwegian must: waffles with jam and brown cheese.

Parades in the city

After a hearty breakfast, we were definitely inspired and ready to watch the parades! On this day, not only the military gets to walk down the streets, but all the organizations get a spot in the parades and an opportunity to show off with costumes and tricks. One of the rowdiest participants were the soon-to-be-graduates from high school, called russ. When the russ students showed up in their jumpsuits dancing to the loud music coming from a van, everybody started cheering and waving their flags to celebrate with the tired-looking - but happy - students.

The morning parades were the most crowded event of the day, although other activities like speeches, concerts and other music performances took place in different locations in the city. In the morning, the city center was packed with people from all ages and occupations, watching the parade or participating in it under the light, benevolent rain that accompanied us in Bergen on this day.

Celebration at the student club "Kvarteret"

After the parade, it is very common to make a reservation in a nice restaurant and eat dinner with your family and friends. Instead, we headed to “the Quarter” (Kvarteret) to join the group of students, interns and exchange students that gathered to celebrate together with hot dogs and kransekake, a traditional Norwegian cake made of almonds, egg whites and sugar.

One of the most interesting things to do on days like this is to compare and discuss all the different designs of the national costume of Norway, the bunad. On special occasions like the 17th of May, most of the girls and women and some of the men dress in their national costume, and each of them wear the one from their own region. The bunad is usually a hand-made piece of clothing which is different in color and design, depending on the region or the family the owner comes from.

To me as an international student, it has been very exciting to be a participant of the enthusiasm of Norwegians and foreigners alike. I remember that when I had just arrived in Norway, all the Norwegians mentioned that one of the best events of the year would be the celebration of the 17th of May. They were right! It was a very exciting and heart-warming new experience, and I am sure all the international students will cherish and remember it forever. Hipp hurra for deg, Norge!