An ekte norsk celebration

Photo: Reidun Svimbil Lanne

Photo: Reidun Svimbil Lanne

A meaningful 17th of May spent with family and friends in Stavanger, Norway

Leslee Lane Hoyum

Rockford, Minn.

When we think about 17. Mai, Norwegian Constitution Day, we immediately think of bunad-clad Norwegians, flags waving and children in parades. In Stavanger, it is that and much more. It truly is a celebration of modern-day Norway.

At 7:00 a.m. my husband George and I were awakened by a local school band proudly and enthusiastically playing patriotic songs as it wound its way through the residential streets of Hafrsfjord. It was the perfect kickoff for Norway’s 199th constitutional celebration.

After a hardy breakfast we attended the Vaulen School barnetog (children’s parade), where we watched Norway’s future march confidently before us. As first to sixth graders energetically waved flags and sang national songs, parents and grandparents cheered them on.

The face of Norway is changing, however; no longer will tomorrow’s doctors, educators, scientists and politicians be only fair and blue-eyed. The parade looked like a United Nations summit. The children are or descend from people from around the world: Venezuela, Canada, Australia, India, Africa, India, Vietnam, Pakistan and Malaysia, to name a few. But children are children and as they neared the parade’s end, you knew there was more in their minds than 17. Mai. Visions of games, hot dogs and ice cream “danced in their heads.”

Family has been, and continues to be, a large part of Norwegian life. Syttende Mai only helps to solidify the bond among family members. We had a fabulous middag (dinner) with four generations of my family. We laughed, reminisced and educated the young about the past and how it relates to their future. But the day wasn’t over yet.

Stavanger holds a large Folketog in which everyone may participate. As an international city, Stavanger highlights its broad diversity of people and activities. Not only did organizations “march” in the Folketog, but they performed! We saw participants ranging from bicyclists to groups reflecting Stavanger’s international flair to the Red Cross, churches, sports organizations, dance and gymnastic schools, plus a variety of musical performers. However, we more apt to hear music by Credence Clearwater Revival that Edvard Grieg.

Was the celebration now over? Not by a long shot. Also very important in Norwegian life is one’s friends. We were blessed to share the friends of my cousin and his wife for an evening-long party full of gastronomic delights and savory drink that was fully complemented by delightful conversation and laughter that took us into the wee hours of the night. The day was remarkable!

This article originally appeared in the June 7, 2013 issue of the Norwegian American Weekly. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (800) 305-0271.

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The Norwegian American is North America's oldest and only Norwegian newspaper, published since May 17, 1889.