It’s Norway’s national day on May 17 so we’re preparing to celebrate it in typical Norwegian style – with lots of flags, delicious food, and fun!
Our owner Paul has family in Norway; indeed, a 100-year-old recipe book belonging to his Norwegian grandmother was his inspiration for launching Baltzersen’s. So we’re looking forward to celebrating what is one of the most important dates in the country’s calendar.
Norwegian Constitution Day is an official national holiday in Norway, allowing everyone to join in the huge celebrations which mark the day that the country declared its independence.
The constitution was signed on May 17, 1814, in a bid to stop the country being ceded to Sweden. This followed the defeat of the Denmark-Norway political union by the British during the Napoleonic Wars. Despite asserting its constitutional independence, however, Norway was forced to enter into a personal union with Sweden.
Soon afterwards, students are said to have been the first to celebrate Norwegian Constitution Day. But the festivities were seen by the King of Sweden as a protest against the union with his country. Indeed, King Karl Johan actually banned commemorations throughout the 1820s.
But in 1829 the King was forced to lift the ban after police and troops intervened during the May 17 celebrations, causing injuries to some of the participants and general outrage among the population.
From then on, momentum grew. Public addresses were first held in 1833, but it was not until 1864 that the first children’s parade took place in Christiania (now Oslo), marking the start of the more established annual celebrations which continue to this day.
Norwegian Constitution Day is seen as a chance to celebrate the values of freedom and equality, and to give thanks for the signing of the constitution.
Children’s parades still form a major part of modern-day festivities, with schoolchildren and bands marching through their communities waving flags. There are also parades for members of the public, which anyone can join. The parades are usually followed by children’s games and food such as ice cream and hot dogs. This underlines the fact that the day is not focused on politics or the military, as many national days are. It’s more of an all-inclusive celebration for everyone, particularly the younger generation.
In Norway’s capital, Oslo, around 100,000 people take part in the May 17 celebrations each year. The city’s parade is the longest in the country, and includes children from more than 100 schools, who are greeted by the royal family as they march past the Royal Palace.
Another tradition on Constitution Day – which is most commonly referred to as Syttende Mai (17th of May) – is for people to wear red, white and blue ribbons, as well as the traditional ‘bunad’ costume.
The day is also celebrated in Norwegian communities across the world. One of the largest festivities outside of Norway takes place in Petersburg, Alaska, an old Norwegian settlement nicknamed Little Norway. Celebrations include a parade and traditional food.
At Baltzersen’s, we won’t be going so far as to parade through Harrogate, but we will be holding our own special May 17 celebrations. We’ll be decorating the cafe in red, white and blue and serving up cakes baked specially for the occasion. We hope to welcome you into the cafe for some traditional Norwegian treats.