Happy birthday, Norway!–Norway’s National Day

I swear I saw more flags today in two hours than I’ve seen in my entire life.

Today was the day I’ve been waiting for for months–the 17th of May, Norway’s National Day. If you don’t know what that means, think the 4th of July for the US.

Except the 17th of May is Norwegian, therefore making it as awesome as corn dogs and Henrik Ibsen’s facial hair.

In the morning, my friend and I made our way to Karl Johans gate, the street leading up to the Royal Palace and on which the National Day parade proceeds. We beat all the Norwegians there since we wanted to get a good spot, so we killed a little time by just wandering around. Eventually we staked out a spot on Karl Johans directly across from the old University buildings (which are currently under renovation, and therefore look sad).

More and more Norwegians started to appear, and I continued to geek out over the number of bunader I was seeing. Bunader (singular–bunad) are Norwegian traditional clothes, and they are SO, SO AWESOME. I want one. I want one badly. I don’t even care that I’m not Norwegian; I would become a Norwegian if I could have a bunad.

Just look at it and tell me it’s not cool.

It’s really interesting because the design of bunader varies by region of the country. I saw blue bunader, black, green, some with white aprons and some with black, some with many designs and some with fewer. Both men and women have bunader, although I saw far more women wearing bunader than men. The men who weren’t wearing bunader typically were wearing suits.

I felt considerably underdressed what with all the dresses, bunader, and suits.

Before the parade started, two young Norwegian boys were playing in the street. The younger boy saw the parade starting to draw near to them, so he tried to pull his brother out of the street and onto the safety of the sidewalk. His brother wouldn’t come, however, and the younger boy became scared and went to the sidewalk. The younger boy must have been terrified that his brother would be run over, because he started to cry while pointing at his brother.

His brother eventually moved to the sidewalk, at which point the younger brother stopped crying. The two brothers then joined hands.

Seriously, it was the cutest thing I’ve ever seen.

The parade was kicked off with a carriage drawn by two Norwegian Fjords. They were adorable, and I wanted to hug one. Probably not a good time, though.

Next came the king’s guard (kongens garde), who played a few songs for us.

Then after them came hordes upon hordes of children.

The biggest attraction for the National Day parade is the barnetoget, or children’s train. Every school in the Oslo region gets to march in the parade, which adds up to a lot of crazy children. Also, a lot of flags, since almost every child carries a flag, whether it be big or small.

The children march down Karl Johans gate to the Royal Palace, where they wave to the royal family, standing on a balcony of the palace. They then turn around and continue to march past the harbor.

Interspersed throughout the children were bands and random groups of extremely drunk people, and one extremely drunk band. They were so intoxicated that not only could I smell the alcohol on them, but they couldn’t get it together enough to start their song at the same time. I found out from another friend of mine that this band wasn’t allowed to march all the way up to the palace to wave to the king since they were so drunk. Sad day for them.

My friend and I watched the barnetoget for about an hour and a half before leaving. After a while, it begins to look the same, and the children’s parade goes on for three hours. We walked over to the Royal Palace to see the royal family, and also walked down to the other end of Karl Johans to see the madness.

Remember how I said that almost every child who marches in the parade has a flag? This ends up creating a sea of red, white, and blue, the colors of Norway’s flag. It looks so awesome, as you can see in the picture.

The parade is not the only event on the 17th of May. There are many, many activities all throughout Oslo (and Norway, of course) to celebrate this historical day. Later in the day was the russetoget, “the train of russ.” Russ are high school graduates in Norway. In order to celebrate their graduation, they wear overalls from the 1st until the 17th of May, when they march in the parade. I’ve been seeing these overalls everywhere around Oslo lately. Most of the overalls are red; however, I’ve also seen blue and I’m told black and green overalls exist. The color of the overalls corresponds to the student’s program of study. I was told earlier that russ are known to target foreigners for pranks so I’ve been avoiding them like the plague. I didn’t go to the russetoget, not because I was afraid of being pranked, but because I didn’t particularly want to watch a parade of drunk high school graduates, especially with all the work I had to do.

In the evening there was also traditional Norwegian folk dancing near the old University (which I also did not attend–I was baking cookies). This folk dancing started at 18:14, which I thought was a really random time. Then I noticed that the dancing was supposed to last until 20:12, and that was when I realize the times represent the years 1814-2012. Clever!

So that was my 17th of May, and it was awesome. I absolutely loved it, and I wish I could be in Norway again for the 17th of May.

Now, on to practical matters. First, I mentioned that I was baking cookies. This was somewhat of a fail. I didn’t have an electric mixer so I had to beat the butter and sugar by hand, which was incredibly difficult. I also didn’t have any dry measuring cups, or anything to measure small volumes with. So, there was a fair amount of guesstimation involved, and unfortunately baking needs to be pretty precise. I also had to chop the chocolate myself because I couldn’t find chocolate chips, which just ended with my hands covered in melted chocolate and the biggest “chocolate chips” I’ve ever seen.

So I ended up with pancake cookies that looked like they had been thrown off a roof. Seriously, they’re the flattest cookies I’ve seen. They just immediately melted into a puddle as soon as I put them in the oven. Then when I took the first batch out, being the impatient person that I am, I didn’t wait for them to cool at all before I tried moving them. Because of the massive chocolate chunks, most of the cookies just fell apart.

The good news is that they still taste amazing. I took some to my friend and she couldn’t stop eating them, so even though they look like road kill, they still accomplish the main mission.

Why was I baking cookies? I’m going to go stay with a family friend, so I decided to bake cookies as thanks. This brings me to my next, sad point. I won’t be updating my blog until the 26th of May. I’ll be travelling until this time and won’t be taking my computer with, since one of the hostels I’m staying at doesn’t have lockers. Normally I would just carry my backpack around with me but since I’ll be on a lot of boats and around water, this makes me understandably nervous.

When I come back I’ll have a lot of posts and pictures to share, so you can look forward to that. Goodbye for now, and gratulerer med dagen, Norge!

2 responses to “Happy birthday, Norway!–Norway’s National Day

    • Hm, I didn’t know that. But I have made this recipe before using the same amount of sugar and they turned out fine… maybe Norwegian sugar is just different, though.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s