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NORWEGIAN WORD OF THE DAY

Five Norwegian words which help sum up May 17th

Norway's national day, May 17th, which marks the signing of the country's constitution, is a unique celebration with plenty of traditions. Here are five words that help explain the occasion.

These are the key words to help you understand May 17th.
Just a few words can help you understand Norway's national day of celebration. Pictured is a Norwegian flag. Photo by Max van den Oetelaar on Unsplash

Champagnefrokost

Breakfast the most important meal of the day. This is no different in Norway, and on May 17th, the meal that people enjoy the most or put the hardest work into if they are hosting (but not any literal blood, sweat or tears, hopefully) is breakfast. 

May 17th normally begins with a champagne breakfast to kick start a day of festivities. The breakfast is typically held relatively early so that people can head out to join in with the celebrations, although some will do it afterwards as a kind of brunch. 

This won’t be your typical Norwegian breakfast. Instead, the canned leverpostei is likely to be parked in favour of more upmarket and luxurious sandwich toppings. 

Barnetog

An event that typically follows the breakfast is the childrens’ parades all over the country.

The word literally translates to ‘children’s train’ but refers to parades. Kids up and down the country will typically participate in parades, usually with their school classes. This will be through the town or city centre. 

The most famous of the childrens’ parades is the one which sees kids in Oslo make their way up Karl Johan Gate Street to wave to the royal family who watch on from the palace. 

The parades usually end with a russetog. The russetog is a procession of russ students. Russ is where final year high-school students in Norway party in the lead up to May 17th. 

This parade maybe isn’t as wholesome as the kids’ one as the students tend to look a bit worse for wear after a month of partying. 

Bunad 

On Norway’s national day, you’ll see plenty of locals dressed in their national costumes. 

The day is so closely associated with the bunad that the national costume could be seen as a symbol of May 17th. 

The origins of the bunad has its roots in the period of national romanticism in Norway in the 19th century. This period led to an interest in traditional folk costumes in Norway and countries such as Germany. 

Folk costumes were worn in Norway a long time before the period of national romanticism, however. For example, in Setesdal, southern Norway, there is a tradition of folk costumes that stretches back to the 14th century. 

READ MORE: What you need to know about Norway’s national costume

Nasjonalsangen

This means the national anthem or song, Norway’s national anthem is Ja, vi elsker dette landet (yes, we love this country). It was only adopted relatively recently, in 2019. 

While Sønner av Norge, was considered the proper national anthem up until this point, Ja, vi elsker dette landet was considered more of a de-facto national anthem and certainly the anthem of May 17th. 

It was first performed publicly on the 50th anniversary of the signing of the constitution, giving the song an incredibly close link with the country’s national day. 

If you do fancy brushing up on the lyrics, just remember it’s typically just the first and last verses that are sung. 

Flagg

This one may not be overly beneficial in expanding your vocabulary, but there is no May 17th without the flags. Most apartments in Norway have a flag holder on their balcony with Constitution Day in mind. 

Not only will the majority of houses and apartment blocks have Norwegian flags on display, but most people also heading out will be carrying flags. 

The flag mania doesn’t stop there, as most breakfast tables will be adorned with flags or decorations depicting the flag. 

One rule would be to ensure that you don’t 

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NORWEGIAN WORD OF THE DAY

Norwegian expression of the day: Sommerfugler i magen

Eagerly anticipating something, but also have some nerves? In that case, you have "summer birds" in your stomach. 

Norwegian expression of the day: Sommerfugler i magen

What does it mean? 

Very literally, sommerfugler i magen means “summer birds in the stomach”. What it really means is “butterflies in your stomach”. Having butterflies in your stomach is a fairly common expression in English. 

Sommerfugler in isolation is an example of Norwegian giving animals fairly literal names. 

Other entertaining – and very literal – Norwegian animal names include nebbdyr or “beaked animal” for a ducked bull platypus and flaggermus or “flapping mouse” for a bat. You can read more about animals with very literal Norwegian names here

Norwegians use butterflies in the stomach in a similar way to most other languages, whereby it’s used to describe a mix of nervousness and excitement. So, for example, you might feel butterflies in your stomach on the first day of a new job. 

A similar sensation, although one which describes feeling more anxious or dreading something, would be gruer meg. 

Use it like this: 

Hver gang jeg ser Simon får jeg sommerfugler I magen.

(Everytime I see Simon I get butterflies in my stomach)

Jeg skal hoppe i fallskjerm I morgen, jeg har skikkelig sommerfugler i magen, men gleder meg!

(I am skydiving tomorrow. I have lots of butterflies in my stomach, but I am excited!)

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