Ten things you might not know about May 17

17 MayOslo.17 May celebration on Palace Square and Karl Johans gate in Oslo. Photo: Heiko Junge / NTB scanpix

Most people know why we celebrate May 17th, but did you know it was once forbidden to parade on Independence Day? Or that we really celebrate on the wrong day?

May 17 may now perhaps be mostly about hot dogs, ice cream, carnival, parades, and speeches. And after last year’s anniversary year, most have probably heard of Wedel-Jarlsberg and Christian Fredrik.
But there is much more at May 17 than the story of Hobart! Did you know that…

… We celebrate on the wrong day
The Constitution was approved by the National Assembly at Eidsvoll on 16 May, and indeed, little was done on what has become our National Day. Although the Constitution is dated May 17, was not signed until May 18, which means we really celebrate a day early.

… Once, it was forbidden to celebrate
The union’s King Karl Johan dropped the prohibition on celebrating May 17 in the 1820s, when the celebration had definite undertones of anti-Swedish attitudes.

… The celebration started as a street fight
When a large crowd welcomed the steamship Constitution with cheers and song in the afternoon of 17 May, 1829, authorities were nervous. Henrik Wergeland, who according to the story, came riding over the Square with a naked woman, was central to street battles that have later been called the ‘Torg team’.
The peaceful crowd was chased away by the cavalry and infantry, and this provoked strong indignation, which in turn led to a breakthrough for the celebration of the 17th of May.

… The girls did not join the parade
The first parade in Norway, the ‘Smaagutternes Flagtog’, consisted of about 1200 boys from Qvam school in Christiania on 17 May 1870. 19 years later, in 1889, girls were allowed to participate with students from Mrs. Ragna Nielsens school.

… The royal family has waved from the balcony since 1906
Ever since Norway’s first National Day with its own king, the royal family has stood on the palace balcony and greeted the Oslo schoolchildren of Oslo. The only exceptions have been in 1910, when Queen Maud’s father – King Edward VII – was buried, and during WWII.

… The first May 17 speech was held by Wergeland
Although it was not common, celebration of May 17th until the end of the 1800s made Henrik Wergeland’s first May 17 speech the first, as early as 1833.

… ‘Ja, Vi Elsker’ is not the official anthem
Formally, Norway has no official national anthem, but based on the general and widespread use of ‘Ja, Vi Elsker’, it has become established as the de facto national anthem. It was first performed on the constitution anniversary in 1864, superseding the ‘Sons of Norway’ from 1820.

… Costume has not always been plain on national day
Although several of today’s costumes, stacks, and party outfits predate 1930, it was not common until the 1930s to wear the national costume on the National Day. Even then, only some communities choose to use that dress for celebrating holidays.

… Not all associate May 17 with the Constitution
About 70 percent of the population associates the 17th of May celebrations with the Constitution now, while in anniversary year of 2014, the number was only 50 percent, according to a study done by the Department of Churches, Religious and Ethical Research (KIFO) asking people what they associate with the national day.

… Yes, we love sausages on May 17
Sausages are a natural part of the national day for many. Nortura estimates that 20 million hot dogs are sold during the 17 May week, representing a four sausages per person in the kingdom. In Eastern Norway, frankfurters are more popular, while in the rest of the country, grill sausages are the favorite.


Source: Newspaper VG / Norway Today