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Labour Day: What happens in Norway on May 1st?

Robin-Ivan Capar
Robin-Ivan Capar - [email protected]
Labour Day: What happens in Norway on May 1st?
Norway has a long history of observing Labour Day, which has included both festive events and demonstrations. Photo by: Hanna Alice Johnsen / LO / Press

Labour Day (May 1st) is a big deal in Norway, which is no surprise considering the strength and influence of the labour movement in the country. Here's how Norwegians typically mark the day.

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Labour Day celebrations – and protests – have a long history in Norway. May 1st became an officially recognised holiday in the country over 75 years ago, although the day was also marked in decades preceding state recognition.

May 1st in Norway is most often an energetic and cheerful affair - Norwegian workers take to the street and join marches, parades, and celebrations.

READ MORE: What foreign residents in Norway should know about workers’ unions

On the one hand, they celebrate the gains in worker rights that have been secured over the years. On the other, they use the opportunity to protest for even better worker rights and show unity and solidarity with other workers.

At the same time, Norwegian – mostly left-leaning – politicians and union leaders make speeches throughout the country highlighting the importance of workers' rights and protection, with the Labour Party and union movement traditionally using the day as a platform for promoting their ideas and values.

Norwegian traditions associated with May 1st

There are several ways people in Norway mark Labour Day. The two most common ones are joining parades and demonstrations calling for higher levels of employee rights or spending the day in a more peaceful manner, surrounded by family or friends.

For those taking to the streets to celebrate more actively, there are several options available, including parades featuring trade unions, various groups, and political parties marching together to show support for workers' rights, festivals with live music, food, and speeches, concerts, and rallies where (usually left-leaning) politicians tend to talk about the importance of solidarity and the labour movement.

People planning to stay home will likely opt to engage in family activities, spend time with their close ones, and enjoy the holiday in peace. Some families and groups of friends may choose to go on picnics, bike rides, or other outdoor activities.

There is no wrong way of celebrating worker rights, so do what feels natural – and remember to spare a thought for the past generations whose fight resulted in the high level of worker protections and rights enjoyed by all of us in Norway today.

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A throwback to the 1980s: The Blitz movement

In Norwegian history, the Labour Day markings in the 1980s are seen as particularly significant. That is when a group of young people – with radical left-wing inclinations – occupied buildings in cities such as Tromsø and Oslo.

These events triggered the establishment of the Blitz movement, a youth countercultural movement fed up with the political and societal mainstream that saw its heyday in the 1980s.

The movement was named after Blitz House, a former factory building in central Oslo occupied by the protesters in 1982. The occupied building served as a centre for political activism and art.

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Members of the Blitz movement were involved in several political causes, ranging from environmental activism to protests against discrimination.

Although it was relatively short-lived, the Blitz movement had a notable impact on Norway's youth culture and society, and it is still seen by many as a symbol of countercultural opposition in the country.

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