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Happy Syttende Mai!

By Staff | May 15, 2015

May 17, or Syttende Mai, marks the anniversary of the signing of Norway’s Constitution. In Norway it is celebrated with parades.

You don’t put your heritage in a closet for a keepsake. You display it so others may explore its roots and share its traditions with the young, who will, in kind, share it with the youth of their time. This needs to be done so the links of the past can guide a culture to their future. This is why remembering the 17th of May is so important in the Norwegian culture. A culture whose roots run deep in Pierce County. May 17 represents Norway’s act to avoid being ceded to Sweden after losing a protracted and devastating war. May 17th has evolved over the years in Norway as a day for people to rally for political change or to stand unified, like during the German occupation (1940-45), when open celebration of the holiday was strictly forbidden. Today, thousands march in popular children’s and people’s parades all over the country and wherever Norwegians are found-expressing their cultural pride, joy in springtime and honoring those citizens who created Norway’s constitutional government, founding her independence. May 17th also known as Syttende Mai, similar to July 4th in America. They also refer to this day as Grunnlovsdagen, which means The Constitution Day and Nasjonaldagen that means The National Day.

The Constitution of Norway was signed on 17th May 1814 at Eidsvoll and as per the constitution Norway was declared to be an independent nation. On that day the historic moment was celebrated in a spontaneous manner by the young and aged alike. Norway however, was under Swedish rule and this meant for a couple of years that then-king of Sweden was unwilling to allow celebrations. In the 1820s the then king Karl Johan actually did not permit the celebrations. He felt that the celebrations were disregardful of Swedish authority and banned them for that reason. This all changed after the Battle of Square in 1829. There was a lot of commotion and the King was forced to permit the celebrations. However, the first public address to celebrate the day took place in 1833. The monument of deceased politician Christian Krogh played an important role in starting the celebrations. Incidentally he was responsible for stopping the then King from assuming too much power. Today this remembrance on May 17th is celebrated much more than Norway’s actual Independence Day, which is on June 7.

For all those who have Norwegian blood pulsating through their veins take a moment on May 17th to give thanks to a culture rich in history. A culture who knew its path, and rather than fall to their knees to be ruled by another stood on their feet with pride to embrace their heritage.

If you have any questions about Norway, or want to get more involved in the Norwegian culture you can contact Rugby’s Sons of Norway.

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