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The 17 May parade in Oslo back in 2019. Photo: Asgeir Helgestad/Visit Norway
The parades, which began 150 years ago when a group of several hundred children marched up to the Royal Castle in Oslo, are the central feature of the country's “syttende mai”, or May 17, celebrations, which mark the signing of the Norwegian constitution in 1815.
“It strikes deep to not have a children's parade in Oslo. This has historical dimensions,” Pia Farstad Von Hall, the leader of Oslo's May 17 committee told NRK. “This has been a difficult decision, but at the same time it is the right decision.”
The parades were banned during the German occupation, with some Norwegians instead meeting in secret to celebrate May 17. But they were renewed on May 17 1945, just eight days after Germany surrendered on May 8.
The May 17 committees in Bergen, Stavanger, and Drammen also announced that their local events would be cancelled on Tuesday evening
Farstad Von Hall said that her committee had judged that generating such a concentration of people in the centre of Oslo could simply not meet the current guidelines on reducing the spread of coronavirus, no matter what mitigating measures were taken.
Her counterparts in Stavanger and Bergen, Ann Sesilie Tekfeldt and Erik Næsgaard, also announced on Tuesday that their cities would not hold children's parades.
“We are planning for a nice celebration, but it will be done digitally,” Tekfeldt said, saying that the municipality aimed to stream events throughout the day. “We'll do a broadcast. A gala performance from Stavanger Concert Hall.”
“It will be a different May 17,” said Næsgaard. “You can't have large gatherings of people, and without an audience, there will be no parade.”
Norway's government had for weeks been delaying a decision on the celebrations, unsurprisingly given their special emotional importance to people in the country.
“We know that this is a decision we have to take, but we want to know a little more first,” Justice Minister Monica Mæland said at a press conference on April 1.