May 17th is the biggest day on the Norwegian calendar. Nationwide, schools are closed, most people are off from work and the day is filled with parades, barbecues and celebration.
Norwegians signed their Constitution into effect on May 17, 1814 (it is the second oldest Constitution in the world, behind you know who...) and over time the significance of the day has grown exponentially.
We were lucky enough to live in Oslo during the 2017 celebrations and it was our favorite day in Norway. Our kids took part (along with most other school-age children in Oslo) in a huge parade that stretched from the oldest church in Oslo to the palace on the other side of downtown. We hosted Nate's mom and Aunt Ruth Ann and we all got dressed up in our Red, White and Blue! Nate's mom and our daughter wore a Halingdal Bunad hand sewn by her grandmother, which is the traditional celebration dress of Norway. These Bunad tell those in the know, where the wearer is from within Norway.
The parade was the centerpiece; but, the rest of downtown was packed with Norwegians hopping from bar to bar, grilling in the parks and generally having a great time. The day was filled with Norwegian specialities like Brunøst, salmon, potatoes and a Hansa beer or two.
Peppered within the parade-goers are graduating high school seniors who are busy finishing their Russ, which is a monthlong celebration leading up to Syttende Mai. Most seniors are wearing their red or blue overalls, depending on what direction their heading post graduation, and handing out trading cards that summarize who they are. By the way, this all happens BEFORE they take finals. They basically take a month off and fill it with revelry and then go back and take their final exams. It is a little bonkers. Our kids were enamored by the Russ Seniors and collected dozens of trading cards from complete strangers.
If you have the opportunity to spend a Syttende Mai in Oslo you should do it. If you have no plans to hop the pond there are several Syttende Mai celebrations across the United States, concentrated where the Norwegian immigrants clustered throughout Minnesota, Wisconsin, North Dakota and the State of Washington. Check them out!