Today commemorates the 203rd birthday of the Norwegian constitution, which was first signed on 17 May, 1814 at Eidsvoll. The signers of the constitution were greatly inspired by the revolutionary spirit spearheaded by the United States and France, and based the document largely on the American and French constitutions with a significant difference: the retention of monarchy. Though Norway was at the time under a union with Sweden, the constitution declared Norway an independent kingdom and set in motion the way to Norwegian sovereignty.
Every year, Norwegians celebrate their national day from dawn ’til dusk with extravagant breakfasts, children’s parades, marching bands, and…lots of ice cream! People put on their finest clothes (typically the traditional folk costume, or bunad, if they own one) and head to their local town centre for hours of activities with family, friends, and neighbours. As you can see, it can get very crowded.
Eirik and I enjoyed a delightful lunch after the parades at Aunt Lena’s, followed by yummy desserts (and ice cream cake, of course!).
The Norwegian constitution is the second oldest operational constitution in the world. Though it has undergone some tragic reforms, the document can still be lauded for having been one of the most radically free constitutions in the world at the time it was signed, placing great emphasis on the freedom of speech and establishing equal opportunity for all.
If you are ever in Norway on the 17th of May, beware of closed shops and offices…but enjoy the patriotic festivities!