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17 May Constitution Day (1814) in Norway

Norway’s Constitution Day is May 17 and commemorates the signing of the constitution at Eidsvoll on May 17, 1814. It’s usually referred to as “syttende mai” (17th of May) or Nasjonaldagen (The National Day) in Norwegian.

A typical children's parade - barnetog - on May 17.
A typical children's parade - barnetog - on May 17.
©thinkstockphoto.com/kjekol

Children's Parade

The most important part of May 17 celebrations the children’s parade, Barnetoget. Every city, town, or village center has its own children’s parade in the morning, and most also host a people’s parade, Folkeltog, in the afternoon. In the children’s parade, the School brass bands march at the front and the students, waiving little Norwegian flags, follow class by class, dressed in their best outfits or the national costume, bunad.

Royals Greet the Children

In the capital, Oslo, the children’s parade ends up at the Castle Square, Slottsplassen. The Norwegian royal family waives to the crowds of children below; a custom started in 1906 by King Haakon and Queen Maud. The Oslo parade is televised with commentators and takes many hours to complete.

The formal part of celebrations includes church services and memorial speeches, while local communities organize fun family games and activities all over the country. There’s an unwritten rule that on May 17 kids may eat as many ice creams as they can manage, and many have ended the day with a tummy ache.

Parades in Expat Communities

All over the world, people of Norwegian heritage organize little parades to celebrate Constitution Day on May 17. The day is also celebrated in various places across the United States, mainly supported by organizations like Sons of Norway.

Most Businesses Closed

Constitution Day is a public holiday in Norway. Schools, public offices, and businesses are closed, except for some cafés and restaurants. However, people mill about everywhere, and road users need to take into account that many streets, particularly in the town centers, are closed for the day. As the crowds gather to participate in or watch the parades, there may also be traffic jams.

End of Danish Rule

Norway adopted its constitution on May 16, 1814, and it was signed on May 17, 1814, proceeded by nearly 400 years of Danish rule. The Norwegian Parliament, known as Stortinget, held the first May 17 celebrations in 1836, and since it has been regarded as Norway’s National Day. The first children's parade—for boys only—took place in 1870. From 1889, girls were also invited to march in the parades.

Flags Everywhere

The military officially salutes the day with canon fire at 06:00 (6 am) in the morning.

Every single flagpole in the country will fly a Norwegian flag on May 17, and many cities erect additional flagpoles just for the day. The Norwegian flag is red with an indigo blue Scandinavian cross outlined in white. The colors of the flag are also used for all sorts of other decorations.

May 17, is the day “everyone” wears their Norwegian national costume bunad if they own one. These traditional dresses and suits vary in appearance from region to region, inspired by folk costumes from the 18th and 19th centuries. A bunad is fashioned from all natural materials with embroidered woolen skirts or knickers, linen shirts, silk stockings, and silk or brocade vests. Traditional silver brooches and jewelry decorates belts, hats, bonnets, and shoes.

17 May Constitution Day (1814) Observances

WeekdayDateYearNameHoliday Type
MonMay 17201017 May Constitution Day (1814)National holiday, Flag day
TueMay 17201117 May Constitution Day (1814)National holiday, Flag day
ThuMay 17201217 May Constitution Day (1814)National holiday, Flag day
FriMay 17201317 May Constitution Day (1814)National holiday, Flag day
SatMay 17201417 May Constitution Day (1814)National holiday, Flag day
SunMay 17201517 May Constitution Day (1814)National holiday, Flag day
TueMay 17201617 May Constitution Day (1814)National holiday, Flag day
WedMay 17201717 May Constitution Day (1814)National holiday, Flag day
ThuMay 17201817 May Constitution Day (1814)National holiday, Flag day
FriMay 17201917 May Constitution Day (1814)National holiday, Flag day
SunMay 17202017 May Constitution Day (1814)National holiday, Flag day

Quick Facts

Norway’s Constitution Day is a public holiday celebrated on May 17 every year.

17 May Constitution Day (1814) 2018

Thursday, May 17, 2018

17 May Constitution Day (1814) 2019

Friday, May 17, 2019

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Name in other languages

NameLanguage
GrunnlovsdagNorwegian
GrunnlovsdagNorwegian (nynorsk)
17 May Constitution Day (1814)English
Tag der Verfassung (Nationalfeiertag)German

Alternative name

17. mai

List of dates for other years

Other holidays in May 2018 in Norway

United Nation Holiday on May 17, 2018

Fun Holiday on May 17, 2018

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