Barneblad: Ice Cream, a 17th of May Tradition

Photo: Heidi Håvan Grosch
Ice cream in Norway comes in many shapes and sizes, and on Syttende Mai you get to eat as much of it as you want!

Heidi Håvan Grosch
Sparbu, Norway

One of the best things about the 17th of May is that you are allowed to eat as much ice cream (is/iskrem) as you like, no questions asked. Usually it is ice cream you can hold in your hand, in a cone or on a stick. But scooping it into a bowl is also allowed. Why not try a bit of both?

Although the history of ice cream can go back to the fourth century B.C., it didn’t come to Norway until the early 1900s. It didn’t take long for this frozen treat to catch on, and by the 1920s ice cream factories were popping up all over Norway. Three of the biggest ice cream suppliers in Norway are Hennig-Olsen Is, Diplom-Is, and Isbjørn Is. You might have fun looking at their websites. Even through they are in Norwegian, there are many good pictures of their products. Just make sure you aren’t hungry when you surf around and have a look!

Hennig-Olsen Is ( is Norway’s number one ice cream maker. They started in 1924 with their secret recipe, and today the company is still run by the family. Their factory is in Kristiansand, and they employ people from 30 different countries. “No matter what someone’s nationality, religion, or cultural background,” they write on their website, “all are given respect and included.” In 2007 Hennig-Olsen Is won the Mangfoldprisen for arbeid (diversity in the workplace) award. Hennig-Olsen Is doesn’t like to throw anything away, so all their extra ice cream is fed to pigs in Søgne. Lucky pigs.

Here is a fun video fun to watch even if you don’t know what they are saying:

Photo: Heidi Håvan Grosch

Diplom-Is ( started in Oslo in the 1930s, and they also make a lot of the ice cream Norwegians eat today. They are part of the company Tine SA that makes milk, yogurt, and cheese. Odd Sjetne, the first director of Diplom-Is, was inspired during a two-month trip to the United States in the 30s where he observed ice cream in the making. That makes sense, since the first ice cream parlor opened in New York City in 1776, and the first large-scale ice cream plant opened in Baltimore, Maryland, in 1851. The United States is also responsible for the first ice cream cone, introduced at the St. Louis World’s Fair in 1904. Diplom-Is followed in those footsteps, creating Norway’s first ice cream on a stick.

Isbjørn Is ( is made in a factory outside of Bergen and was founded in 1962. Their ice cream factory is so big that they are capable of producing a third of all the ice cream eaten in Norway and can make 35,000 stykkis (ice cream on a stick) in one hour. They are known for their ice cream cakes and are Norway’s third-largest producer of ice cream.

Photo: Heidi Håvan Grosch

A few years ago, the ice cream man drove around in his truck selling Isbjørn Is, ringing his bell to let you know he was in your area. If you were one of his regular customers, he would drive up to your door and you could shop out of the back of his truck. He sold ice cream, as well as lots of other frozen foods like fish. Now you can buy this ice cream in many grocery stores. Last year, the company was sold to the Food Union group in Latvia (

Finding your ice cream “happy place”
Ice cream has always been a “happy place” and in 1943 the U.S. Armed Forces were the world’s largest ice cream manufacturers! You can also make your own ice cream treats and have fun in both the making and the eating. Just google ice cream sandwich recipes and see what you can find.

And remember to remind your parents or grandparents that this 17th of May you can eat all the ice cream you can hold…

Everything you might want to know about ice cream:
• History of Ice Cream (ThoughtCo.):

• PBS Food:

• Farmer’s Almanac:

• Horrible histories:

• ESL ice cream printables:

• Operation Ice cream PBS Kids:

This article originally appeared in the May 5, 2017, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.

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