On 17 May, people all over Norway, in communities big and small, will dress in their finest and set out to celebrate our Constitution and our independence. Although Norway has a history as a nation dating back to the Vikings, The 17th of May celebration is a tribute to our Constitution, which was signed on that very day in 1814. It marks the beginning of a modern and democratic Norway.
Signed right after the Napoleonic war in Europe, the Constitution was a work of pioneers. It was seen as very radical at the time, granting citizens great liberties under the state. Our Constitution has also been described as a piece of poetry. Just listen to article 96: “No one shall be judged but by law, nor be punished but by sentence”. One elegant sentence neatly encapsulates the rule of law.
Our constitution is also about children. We celebrate our future generations which will inherit the country and its Constitution. Therefore, May 17 in Norway will always be associated with Children laughing, parading, cheering and singing. Another distinctive characteristic that contributes to making this a unique day is all the beautiful Bunads or traditional costumes that more and more Norwegians wear on the day.
In Oslo, the Royal family will be on the balcony of the Palace as they are every year, waving to thousands in Barnetog, the Children’s parade. And our national anthem, “Ja, vi elsker”, with its starting line of “Yes, we love this country” will sound from every town square, from Lindesnes in the south, to Kirkenes in the north.