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What you need to know about Norway's Liberation Day

Robin-Ivan Capar
Robin-Ivan Capar - [email protected]
What you need to know about Norway's Liberation Day
May 8th is not a public holiday in Norway, which means that people still go to work, and stores across the country usually remain open. Image by Terje Ansgar Eriksen from Pixabay

On May 8th, Norway celebrates its release from occupation during World War II. The day is called Liberation Day (Frigjøringsdagen), and it also doubles as the country's Veterans Day.


In 1945, Norway finally breathed a sigh of relief as Nazi Germany surrendered and the long-awaited release from occupation arrived.

Though the Allies feared that the heavily fortified German army stationed in Norway would resist surrender, to their surprise, Germany voluntarily relinquished control of the country.

The Norwegian people took to the streets to celebrate the occasion, and just a month later, in early June, King Haakon returned to Oslo.

The event became a key point in Norway's national identity, and 15 years later – in 1960 – the country decided to make May 8th a flag day.

A few years later, in 1962, a royal decree was issued, making May 8th an official flag day from that point onward.

Not a public holiday, but a flag day

May 8th is not a public holiday in Norway, which means that people still go to work, and stores across the country usually remain open.

It is an official flag day, however, which is a designation mostly reserved for special historical events, religious holidays, or dates related to the country's Royal Family, such as birthdays.

As is the case with other flag days in Norway - such as the Union Dissolution Day on June 7th, royal birthdays, and others – you can expect to see the Norwegian flag proudly flying in the wind at the premises of all state offices, as well as from the windows of numerous privately-owned houses and poles in front of buildings all over the country.


How is the occasion marked?

Generally speaking, the Liberation Day marking starts at 8am, with the flag being raised at the Akershus fortress in the centre of Oslo.

A few hours later, wreaths are laid at numerous places and war memorials, including at the Retterstedet, where executions of Norwegians took place during the Second World War.

A special church service also usually takes place at the Akershus fortress chapel.

Furthermore, the day is marked by political speeches, in which state leaders use the occasion to thank all those who contributed to the fight for a free Norway during Nazi Germany's occupation from 1940 to 1945.

Norwegian politicians tend to accentuate the importance of shared fundamental values in their May 8th speeches, with democracy, freedom of expression, human rights, and human dignity often among the central themes.

Norway's Royal Family is usually heavily involved in the day's official marking program.


A day also regarded as Norway's Veterans' Day

Special attention is given to recognising the role of fighters - now veterans - in the resistance movement during World War II.

Although the initial armed resistance against the Nazi occupation forces in Norway was short-lived, an underground resistance movement persisted in the country throughout the entirety of the occupation period.

On numerous occasions, Norway's resistance fighters risked their lives to fight against the occupation forces. They remained committed to their cause of a free Norway, and their actions played a vital role in securing the country's freedom.

On May 8th, all of the country's veterans are recognised for their service.

As Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Støre pointed out in a speech in 2023, around 100,000 Norwegian women and men served in international operations in over 40 countries, often facing demanding and dangerous missions.


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