May is a lovely month – most Norwegians believe it’s the most beautiful: Never is the grass greener, the tulips bloom and beautiful lilacs spread their intoxicating scent. May is the month of plenty of holidays and nearly summer. It is the month to buy new shoes, summer dresses and ironing the flag. May is the month for confirmations, ice cream, summer parties and garden parties on the green lawns surrounded by flowers. It is the month to find the grill and take the year’s first swim in the ocean – the craziest of us have a tradition of swimming before May 1st, but most expect the first swim to be well into May. Anyway, while waiting for the water to get warm enough you can live it up with a blanket and basket in the park or at the beach.
Writing a blog about Norway; our history, traditions and habits, I have made plenty of posts to illustrate and explain all about this. So in this post, I have decided to sum it all up and give you it all – chronologically in a nutshell – about May traditions in Norway:
May is Norway’s own month
May means exams for many and of course we have to work a bit too. For some its graduation and then the Russ celebration is on (see below). Actually, Norway in May is the month of red, white and blue, marching bands and national anthems. We’ve got three anniversaries: 8 May is the Liberation Day 1945, 17th of May our Constitution Day 1814 and then June 7 Union Resolution (from Sweden) 1905 – everybody has his way connected with liberation. Adding to that, we have the Labour Day – of course at the 1st of May. All these days have the status of public Flag Day.
1st of May – labor day:
Every year different Unions or local chapters of the Federation in Norway arrange the 1st of May parade. Labor Day was first celebrated in Norway in 1890. Since 1947, 1st May has been a public holiday. In most places in Norway, like in Oslo, the host for the demonstration parade is LO (The Norwegian Confederation of Trade Unions); decidedly the largest and most influential workers’ organization. It all starts with speaches at Youngstorget (The Labor Square).
You might like to read about one of my 1st of May experience meeting our prime minister some years ago by clicking here!
8 May – Liberation Day 1945:
8 May 1945, Germany surrendered unconditionally and the Second World War ended in Europe. Norway was again a free country and never has there been such a party. The freedom party that started on May 8 lasted a whole month and reached its peak by King Haakon’s return to Oslo on June 7.
May 17th – National or Constitutional Day
17th of May is Norway’s national day. Across the country there are parades with school children -celebrating signing of the Norwegian Constitution at Eidsvoll in 1814 – with flags, bunad (national clothing), marching bands, ice cream and is one of this country’s happiest days.
Our famous writer Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson was also a pioneer when it came 17th. In 1870 he organized the first children’s parade in Christiania it went from Akershus Fortress past Parliament and ended up at the Royal Castle. The parade consisted of approximately 1,200 boys and in 1889 also the girls were in the parade. The idea of the parade belonged to the school principal P. Quam who in 1869 conducted a parade of children from their school. Since 17 May 1906, the Norwegian royal family has stood on the palace balcony and greeted Oslo schools’ pupils, except in 1910 when King Edward VIII, Queen Maud’s father, was buried, and during the war years 1940-1945. Reed all about these tradition and celebrations on my posts by clicking here!
The revelling Norwegian Russ in May:
The tradition goes back to the 1700s, at a time when no universities existed in Norway, and Norwegians would attend the University of Copenhagen to study alongside Danish students. To be enrolled at the university, students had to pass the Examine Artium.
The modern Norwegian russ tradition dates back to 1905, when the red russ caps were introduced. The caps were initially only used by boys, and were inspired by German students, who in 1904 wore red caps when they visited Norway. In 1916, blue caps were introduced at the Oslo Handelsgymnasium, a high school specializing in economics.
In the russ vehicle, modern tradition requires an expensive stereo both on the roof and inside the vehicle (the largest systems allowed can have forty speakers which can generate over sixty thousand watts), bus sweaters, bus lighters/key strings, bus caps and a bus song.
Read all about this russ traditions by clicking here!