Tuesday, 19 May 2009

May 17th, 2009 on the West Coast of Norway

May 17th: the national holiday of Norway: the day Norwegians and those living in Norway to celebrate the signing of the constitution of the country, which came into existence in 1814. While other countries celebrate their national days in shorts, with picnics at the park, frisbee and with bar-b-ques (ahem - thinking of my own here...), Norwegians dress up in their formal bunads (which cost thousands of USD each) or other formal wear. They then march in 'open' parades in which everyone is free to join in if they want. After this, they gather in school yards (if they are not in the big cities playing on the tivolis that have come to visit) and then play games, and eat ice cream and hot dogs until it comes out their ears.

Upon first moving to Norway this type of celebration was really hard to swallow. First, 11 years ago I was not in the economic place to even dream of using my absolute best formal wear (which could not be replaced at that point) for anything else other than a wedding or christening. Secondly, I couldn't understand how a nation could love their country so much that they could show their love so openly for it: open parades where everyone was shouting and singing cheers, greeting everyone with a 'gratulerer med dagen' and a smile, even if you'd only met that person once before, eating the foods their forefathers ate and eating it with pride, even though many don't know how to make this food anymore. All the things that might be politically 'wrong' with the country (which could be anything depending upon which political party you support) are forgotten for the day.

Where I came from, such conduct was closely associated with right wing political groups that one should keep their distance from. Scary images from history books appeared without warning in my mind.

Over a decade has passed now. Not only am I in a far different place economically (though I sometimes continue to be as cheap as I was earlier.... but that's a different story). And I've been here long enough to see the difference between loving one's country and starting up a totalitarian regime. While I probably won't every get my Norwegian citizenship, I think it's so cool to live in this country. I'm thankful that my life has taken me here. And I am so proud of my kids being Norwegian. Now that rocks. And seeing my kids start to appreciate Norway, and celebrate May 17th in the way it's supposed to be celebrated, moves something deep within me.

This May 17th I was on my own. My husband had to unfortunately work this day. But I was undaunted by the task ahead of me. I woke the kids up (they were the only ones in the neighborhood who were not woken by the canons of Bergen being shot out to sea), fed them a semi-nutritious breakfast, got them dressed, and did their hair.

Here are two pictures of them, before they started to become a bit undone:

My daughter in her festdrakt (which is not an official bunad but an acceptable bunad-wanna-be.... for those of us who have other things to spend our money on).

My son and his friend in their outfits. My son (on the right) is wearing an Askøy bunad, loaned to us by his cousins who have since grown out of it. Unfortunately this is the last year he will be fitting into it. You can see at this point that my son is already starting to become 'undone', his hair sticking up in different directions, despite good quantities of hair spray used.
After meeting at the Health Center (opposite and up the street from the school), the students joined up to form a choir. Many songs were sung, poetry about Norway read, and a few speeches given. (I have no pictures of this as I was busy holding my little girl up high so she could see over the heads of those standing in front of us).
Just as the smallest started getting antsy, everyone was instructed to get into class/day care groups to form the parade. My little girl had no interest in walking in the parade (we'll force more patriotism into her next year) so we walked down the street where we could get a good view of everyone going by.

Here they come!

The lead procession.

The grade 7 class of the school (which is the last year before they begin what is equivilent middle school or junior high).

A woman in her gorgeous bunad. I unfortunately am not educated well enough and cannot recognize most bunads. This is one from the west coast, in any case...... lots of embroidery and little gold or silver.

A proud Norwegian father in his bunad, pushing his two small children.

A gentleman stopping to greet an on looker. (See what I mean about open and inclusive parades?)

A little girl in a festdrakt.

Family friends marching by. Notice the little blue festdrakt on the boy.

More friends stopping to say hi. These bunads shown here are the female version of Askøy bunads.

The music corps that passes by in their finery.

More people in their Sunday best.

My son and his friend who walk on by, completely absorbed in their own cheers and ignoring my shouts to turn around so I can take a good pictures of them.

More children in their wonderful costumes.

And more.....

A really cool vest. I do not know if this is a bunad vest, or a festdrakt vest. I suspect it's a festdrakt vest, but am waiting for someone to tell me for sure.

The belt on this bunad is made entirely from pearl beads. Amazing work, and almost impossible to find or re-create these days.

I do believe these green bunads come from the more nothern part of Norway. Again, I'm waiting for confirmation (or otherwise) on this.

After the parade is finished, everyone joins in the school yard to: first, sit down and rest and second, to start munching down on all the types of food that kids enjoy most.... hot dogs, ice cream, pop, and cake. (There is also Lapskaus, a sort-of-type of stew that can also be bought for those who want 'real' food).

It's a good year this year, with lots of people.
After eating and resting, it's time to start playing games.

Here is a type of 'fishing' game. One must try to hook and pull up a small block of wood. The hooks are almost circular in nature, so it's not that easy. But at the same time it is something the smallest kid can do with some concentration. Underneath the blocks of wood are mostly markings of an 'O'. But if you find an 'X', then you win a prize.
My little girl did not win anything at this game.

There is also games that involve walking on stilts.... lots of fun for the older boys and girls. All is made a bit more difficult due to the formal clothes being worn that day. But if it was accomplished in the late 1800's and early 1900's when such clothes were worn daily, it must be possible to still accomplish this today!

Potato sack hopping is always a favorite.

A wheel of fortune is not something to be missed.
But my daughter instead wanted to play a lottery game. Strips of 'tickets' are purchased and each of these tickets has a 'window'. Opening the windows reveals a picture underneath, and if the right picture is found, one wins a prize.

In this case one must find a picture of a Canadian flag (which I thought was pretty cool in itself).

'Mamma - I think I found something...'

And we have a winner!

It's hard to see here, but she won a round jar of lip gloss that was packaged as a lollipop. This was very cool in her eyes.

There was also contests to see who could hammer a nail into a plank of wood the fastest.

And a contest to see who could manage to make it across the log, and the barrel surrounding it, without falling off.

A jousting contest, to see who's toughest.

Finally there was also a contest to see who was most skilled at shooting an air rifle. Lots of people, both female and male, and of all ages lined up to try their hand at this.

Ready..... aim........

And fire!

But I do think it was a bit unfair that this man, straight out from the military lined up as well. Having said this, Norway still has conscription, so most men over a certain age have spent time in a military.... as well as a large number of younger men and women. It's hard to know what skills are hiding under those fine clothes.
All in all it was a very good day. After spending all our money, winning some prizes and eating more than our fair share of ice cream, we headed to a friends house were we ate rømme grøt with speke mat.
(more on this to come.....)


ayca said...

how cultural and pretty sharing:)

Rita from alatvian.etsy.com said...

Hey, you had much fun! Thank you for sharing!

ingermaaike said...

It really is rather amazing isn't it. Arcane and cute at the same time. I still have to get my head round it not being kinda scary and overly nationalistic.
I made a bunad a few years back which I need to take in, so next year I will go in full disguise as a real Norwegian...

Dawn of LaTouchables said...

Wonderful photos! Those children are precious!

AgapeLiz said...

Thanks for sharing! I love the national costumes!

Kreativlink said...

Wow! All that pretty people! Still, your kids are just the cutest :)

Sigmosaics said...

wow, what a day and what a parade!! You children look fabulous in their costumes Nicole :) I find it completely absorbing to be able to see and read this (i'm fascinated by portuguese things as well, being the 'foreigner' ;))

thank you so much for sharing this with us all!!

Siri said...

Gratulerer med dagen!! Hurraaaaa!
The man in the mysterious vest is wearing a bunad. You can see it from the quality of the fabrics, and the silver buckles om his shoes. And I think it is from Toten, east in Norway, close to where I come from. Ill not say this for sure, but it looks like the mens bunad from there.

And heres some history for you;)
Some of he reason for the huge celebration, has to do with Norway being owned (yes! Owned!) by Denmark and Sweden for 400 years, after the black death. So they really had some work to do, building up a national identity.(which they succeeded in, I must say. You know; skies, bunad, rose-painting..)May 17. 1814 was the day they finished Norways first edition of laws.
And then there was the 2nd WW, and people were not aloud to show any patriotism at all. So, when it ended, right before may 17, it became a natural born party-day.
So: Gratulerer med dagen! (Yay, we are not ruled by swedish people, and not by nazis either!) HURRAAA!;)

Arctida said...

So cool! Love the way you guys celebrate your National day! I wish we would do that with the same joy :) Oh, and congrats on the Eurovision victory!

Bovine Bubbles and Hogwash LTD said...

great pictures! Thanks so much for sharing!

Jane_Bo said...

Very interesting! Thank you for sharing, so many pictures as if I was there!