Norwegians brave rain and cold for May 17 gala

Neither the rain and 4C temperatures, nor the comedown from last year’s bicentenary did much to dampen the enthusiasm of the crowds who come out to celebrate May 17, or ‘syttende mai’ in Oslo on Sunday.

Norwegians brave rain and cold for May 17 gala
The children's parade in Oslo's palace square on May 17th. Photo: Heiko Junge / NTB scanpix
More than 60,000 children took part in a parade up Karl Johans Gate to the Royal Palace to mark, the central event in an annual outburst of national pride that is unmatched by any other Scandinavian country. 
This year it was the 70th anniversary of the end of German occupation that made the year’s celebration special, something Norway’s Dagbladet newspaper commemorated with a video of the momentous 1945 festivities. 
At the palace, the children’s parade was greeted by King Harald, Queen Sonja, Crown Prince Haakon, Crown Princess Mette-Marit, and their three children,  continuing a tradition started by King Haakon in 1906. 
Mette-Marit started the day wearing a traditional ‘bunad’ costume from her home county of Vest-Agder, as did Marius, her son from before her marriage to Haakon, ending the week-long speculation in Norwegian celebrity magazines
But after greeting a children’s parade to the Crown family’s official residence in Skaugum, just outside Oslo, in her traditional clothes, Mette-Marit changed into a dark suit, in which she greeted the Oslo parade. 
Olemic Thommessen, the President of the Norwegian Parliament, or Storting, sought to inaugurate a new tradition, laying a wreath for the first time at the foot of a statue of Christian Frederik, who was elected King of Norway at the time of Norway’s declaration of independence in 17 May 1814.   
Record numbers of Norwegians bought traditional bunad costumes ahead of Sunday’s National Day celebrations, Norway’s Aftenposten newspaper reported on Sunday, indicating that the downturn in the economy hasn’t stopped the country wanting to celebrate in style.
Traditional costumiers Norsk Flid reported a ten percent jump in turnover to 160 millioner kroner. 
“We set an all-time record for sales of national costumes and accessories in 2014, despite the fact that we are experiencing much greater competition in the market,” Per Willy Nesset, from the company told the paper. 
According to the Norwegian Institute for bunad and folk costume,  two thirds of Norwegian women and a fifth of Norwegian men own the costumes, which can cost more than 80,000 kroner ($10,000). 
Although ethnic Norwegians are limited to wearing the bunad of their region of origin, the growing numbers of Norwegians of immigrant backgrounds in Oslo and other major cities, are changing the demand patterns for Bunad. 
According to Cecilie Eskild, information officer at Heimen Handicrafts, the traditional Telemark bunad tends to the most popular among immigrant Norwegians.
“In Oslo, almost everyone’s an immigrant, and then you can choose the national costume you like best. There are a remarkable number of people wearing Telemark in Solli Square on May 17,” she said. 
So great was the interest in bunad this year that Norway’s Verdens Gang newspaper announced a contest to find the most beautiful regional Bunad. 
More than 73 000 readers voted, with the Nordlandsbunad winning the contest hands down. 


Oslo police stop May 17th parade with ‘around 150’ participants

Police in Oslo halted a parade to mark Norway’s National Day on Monday in which the number of participants appeared to exceed the city’s current restrictions on public assembly.

Oslo police stop May 17th parade with 'around 150' participants
Photo by Ernest Ojeh on Unsplash

Around 150 people gathered in central Oslo to take part in a parade, which was stopped by police as it headed towards the Royal Palace, newspaper VG reported.

“They had a size of about 150, give or take. They were moving around the city centre and at one point crossed Karl Johan (street) towards the palace,” senior police officer Tor Gulbrandsen told VG.

The event was called an “alternative May 17th parade” by Gulbrandsen, in absence of the city’s regular National Day celebrations.

Norway’s current coronavirus restrictions allow parades of up to 200 people provided social distancing is observed. But restrictions in Oslo are significantly tighter, with public assembly limited at 10 people.


“Another event was taking place at the palace. The police therefore chose to stop this alternative parade before it reached Slottsplassen [Palace Square, ed.],” the police officer said.

Participants joined the parade as a protest against Norway’s coronavirus restrictions, VG writes.

The royal family was on the balcony at the palace, in keeping with regular May 17th traditions, as the alternative parade approached the location, police said.

“Things happened calmly, but the police had to clearly communicate with the organisers to prevent them from disrupting the other event,” Gulbrandsen said.

That included using megaphones to inform them that their event was “illegal”.

The parade then moved towards the Egertorget square, by which time the number of participants had dwindled.

“Police were in the area to ensure they did not disrupt other events and have thoroughly documented the behaviour that went on. We must subsequently look at whether there will be stronger response (by police), it is too early to say as of now,” Gulbrandsen told VG.