It's Norway's Fourth of July already on May 17th, and up to 200,000 or more will celebrate across the border in Sweden.
Every May 17, Norwegians celebrate the country’s Constitution Day (Syttende mai) with an enthusiasm that makes America’s 4th of July look like a normal workday.
There are parades, concerts, huge crowds and flags as far as the eye can see. People of all ages take to the streets to celebrate Norway’s unity, democracy and traditions. A highlight of the national holiday is the arrival of the Children’s Parade (Barnetoget), at the Royal Palace, where the Royal Family waves to the crowd from the balcony.
The Norwegians appreciate their independence because their nation put up with foreign rule for centuries: Denmark was in charge for 434 years, then the Swedes held sway for 91 more.
So why do the Norwegians go wild on May 17, and not June 1 or October 14 or any of a number of other significant dates? Because the Norwegian founding fathers, inspired by the radical ideas contained in the American Declaration of Independence, wrote Norway’s Constitution at Eidsvold, Norway, on May 17, 1814.
May 17, 1814
The occasion recalls the same date in 1814 when Christian Frederick was elected king by an elected assembly and Norway was re-established as an independent kingdom. A Norwegian parliament was established - the "Storting" - and a constitution was adopted.
The year 1814 started with Norway as a part of The Danish Kingdom. In January, the king Frederick VI of Denmark, who sided with France in the Napoleonic War, agreed to cede Norway to the king of Sweden in order to avoid an occupation of Jutland. Then on May 17, Christian Frederick was elected king by an elected assembly and Norway was re-established as an independent kingdom. A Norwegian parliament was established - the "Storting" - and a constitution was adopted. After a brief campaign against Sweden in the summer of 1814 in which the Norwegian army was defeated by the Swedish forces the Convention of Moss was entered on August 14, 1814. According to this treaty, king Christian Frederick transferred the executive power to the Storting, abdicated and returned to Denmark. By the end of the year the Norwegian parliament had agreed to join with Sweden in a personal union under the Swedish king.
Norwegians celebrate all over the world...
The day is also celebrated in many Norwegian immigrant communities throughout the world, with traditional foods and parades. Brooklyn's Bayridge area features a well received parade in this historically Scandinavian section of New York (http://www.may17paradeny.com). But May 17-celebrations can be find from sea to shining sea, from Washington, DC, to California, throughout the Midwest and many towns in all of North America. A few of the celebrations are listed in our events section, for a more conclusive list of major events, see
..in Sweden too
To provide lubrication for the celebrations on Monday, Sweden's state-owned liquor stores along the Norwegian border have stocked up for what normally results in a day of wild business because alcohol, albeit pricey in Sweden, is even more expensive in Norway. Towns along the border are also expecting wild partying by the Norwegians, local as well as incoming youth, especially at the West Coast harbor of Stromstad, which is a perennial haven for Norwegian merrymakers.
More than 200,000 Norwegians who live in Sweden will be celebrating on May 17 to commemorate their national independence day.
Statistics show that there are around 44,000 persons living in Sweden who were born in Norway, and about a third of those are 65 years or older. Children comprise another 41 percent of that figure. Over 75,000 people born in Sweden have at least one parent who was born in Norway, and 95,000 people have at least one grandparent. In total, this adds up to some 214,000 persons, or about 2% of the population of Sweden.
About Norwegian males 1,000 men and 900 females moved into Sweden last year, while 1,500 Norwegians moved back to their native country. During the same period, 6,000 Swedes moved to Norway, and Swedish immigrants are Norway's largest foreign born group. Stockholm (1%) and Gothenburg (2%) have the largest number of people with Norwegian backgrounds, but between the two countries, about 20,000 people commute.
Source: Swedish Bureau of Statistics www.scb.se