17th of May is one day that you get to hear about immediately you step in Norway. It is the Norwegian Constitution day or the National day, celebrated to commemorate the signing of the Constitution of Norway at Eidsvoll in the year 1814. This constitution declared Norway as an independent nation. The most important for me is that, it is a national holiday with lots of activities in every part of Norway and also celebrated by Norwegians living abroad.
Living in Kristiansand, I was caught in a dilemma on whether to remain there or go to Oslo where everyone convienced me that this is where the action was. I finally opted to join a friend in Oslo and see the really action.
“ It is such a fancy day for Norwegians, they will dress in their national dresses, so for foreigners, you may need to dress in a fancy way so that you are not left out especially if you will be in Oslo,” advised by boss in Kristiansand, Pamela.
I am not promising that I dressed in a fancy way, but I just tried to be smart. On Tuesday morning, together with a Norwegian friend, we made it at the Oslo sentrum by 9am where the city was already getting crowded, with beautiful Norwegian women and men who looked extremely handsome in suits and their national regalia.
Children, main focus
Parades and flags were the central elements of the celebration. “Children are usually the main focus on this day, many schools participate in these parades for almost 4 hours with various bands marching between them, and of course we sing the National Anthem,” said my friend.
The parades were great, the costumes spectacular, the celebration simply amazing an experience. Seeing the children march carrying with them the Norwegian flags, I could imagine the essence of Nationalism that they grow up with.
I had never seen Oslo packed this way, I actually thought everyone had relocated to Oslo on this particular day, only to later watch TV and realise that there were many people turning out for the celebrations in all parts of the country. Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation (NRK) had a full day live broadcast and I am sure it was the biggest story at the top of every hour in most media channels.
Royal Castle and the Royal Family was the main focus of the parades too so together with a friend from Ghana Sandra, we camped at the Castle for sometime. “Most people gather here and it will be packed as early as 10am, and of course it is the hardest day for the royal family, the King, the Queen, the Prince and the Crown Princess. They stand at the balcony and take turns waving at the people and the parades for the next four hours. That can be really boring,” said our friend. Just to explain to you how crowded the palace was, former Prime Minister Kåre Isaachsen Willoch who is 82 years of age had to jump over the fence to access the palace. Mmmm, that will never happen in Kenya, not at his age and with such a title.
After the palace, our next adventure was to the old fortress, Arkehus. Accessing the fortress was a hustle, pushing our way through the crowds was not funny. However, we managed to make it and finally got a chance to witness the firing of the cannons, which I am informed is another old tradition that is observed on this particular day.
One major thing I really wanted to witness was the russ, ending it in style. Together with my friend Sandra we joined the children in collecting russ cards and laughing at the jokes for the last time- (1.I am not a vegetarian because I love animals, I am a vegetarian because I hate plants. 2. You know my friend life is short…can you please talk fast…. 3. If nothing goes right, turn left.)
So much information I had gathered on what russ do on this day, driving their big coloured busses and showcasing drama, but I didn´t see much, therefore, I was a bit disappointed. I was informed that the previous night there was major clubbing, marking the official end to one month celebration before they embark on their exams next week. The russ of course did conduct their parade, carrying their flags and crawling as they marched.
So what happened? “The police has been against us and that is why you will notice in most of our russcards we have abused them, our major celebration was cancelled, they always want to fight us,” said a discouraged russ in Oslo.
Ice Cream, Hotdogs and Waffles
I am informed this is one of those days that people make a lot of money from selling over priced fast foods and snacks. During and even after parades, all types of snacks were available. Notably were sweets, waffles, cakes, hotdogs and of course for me ice cream is always the way to go.
Ok, that was it on this great day of the Norwegians, 17th of May. For my Norwegian friends, hope you had a great day, wherever you were!
Do have a great weekend ahead!!