Syttende Mai - Norway’s Constitution Day
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The 17th of May (Syttende Mai) is Norway’s Constitution Day, a wonderful spring holiday celebrated with red, white and blue ribbons and flags, national costumes and big smiles as Norwegians everywhere mark the historic signing of their Constitution (Grunnloven) in 1814. That year marked the beginning of Norway's gaining her independence from Sweden, fully realized in 1905.
The 17th of May evolved over the years in Norway as a day for people to rally for political change or to stand unified during the German occupation (1940-45), when open celebration of the holiday was strictly forbidden. Today, thousands march in children’s and people’s parades all over the country and wherever Norwegians are found–expressing their cultural pride, joy in springtime and honoring those citizens who created Norway’s constitutional government, founding her independence.
The Syttende Mai parades are not military but of Norway’s citizens, marching to the bright music of community and school bands. Decorations of leafy birch branches–in celebration of winter’s end–and Norway’s flag of red, white and blue make for a festive atmosphere.
Especially popular is the Children’s Procession that brings every child out in his best clothes or national costume–marching with his school’s band, classmates and teachers. Young and old enjoy hot dogs and ice cream.
There are 17th of May celebrations all over North America. In Minnesota, where the largest population of Norwegian-Americans is found, the Syttende Mai Minnesota organization–in cooperation with the Sons of Norway–plans events every year at this time.