Norwegian culture

May and 17th of May.

Hi there!

Yes, I am still alive – I’ve just been busy being Norwegian, which in this case means spending time outside for all intents and purposes. You see, when the nights get lighter and longer and the sun is shining we all move outside for the season. After what feels like a 100 year long winter, it’s a blessing to the soul to feel summer upon our see-through, D-vitamin hungry skin. Even if I have to restrain myself from complaining about the heat at the moment. It’s been a month since my last post and I know I promised you a peak into my 17th of May celebration, so I will start of by doing so. The normal family person would, as I mentioned in my last post, be up at the crack of dawn getting ready for the school parade, eating ice cream, playing games and wave their flags. I on the other hand choose to go with option number 2: sleep in for a bit (which was lovely this year since it was raining in the morning) and then have to kick myself into getting dressed and be off to bubble lunch. Yes, champagne for lunch (my case: breakfast). With friends. That is what I do. It usually last for 4 hours before we move to a bar to drink some more. I took some pics to show you:

 

I captured some Russ for you too, even if they are half dead after a three week binge.

The thing about our Independence Day is that it’s pure joy. It’s the one day of year everyone just enjoy themselves. Not only was the 17th a great day, but summer came early this year. Since that day we’ve had up to 30 degrees Celsius almost every day! Can you believe? So I’ve pretty much been outside in the sun with friends, enjoying myself. I also took a very spontaneous trip to Israel, which I will post by it’s own. So you see, May has been busy. But I promise to update more often throughout the summer. Even while on holiday.

I hope your May has been as good as mine.

På gjensyn! .

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How does it work, Norwegian culture

O’beautiful May: the most celebrated month of the year

I started mapping out this post yesterday and was very excited to invite you in to the Norwegian world of May, but waking up today was like having a brick thrown at my face. It’s snowing. A lot. And it just sucked all the joy out of my summer-hungry soul. As I walked my zombie like body towards the coffeemaker in the kitchen this view hit me:

 

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Oh well.. It’s a part of May as well. It happens every year. It’s just so traumatizing that I put it in that little box in the back of my mind and throw away the key, which puts me in the same soul-sucking situation every year.  Anyway, May is a month of beauty and celebration for Norwegians. It’s the last month of spring, blooming season (when it’s not snowing), a month filled with days off work and the celebration of Independence Day.

I picked out some appropriate pictures to give you a sense of what May looks like in Norway:

 

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  1. May Day – our first day off. As a teen you will use this day to recover from a terrible hangover. As an adult you will march the streets for you rights. I will stay in bed, especially with today’s weather.
  2. From late April until the 17th of May you will see high school grads in their overalls doing weird things in the streets. They are called Russ, which is a tradition Norwegians have taken with them from the 1700s Denmark. In 1905 we introduced the red hats in to the graduation process and it’s just grown from there. Now we have a different color for different main subjects, but mainly you see the reds and blues. Red usually means history students and the blue is for economics. We put a lot of effort in to this celebration, so you should not be surprised if you see painted buses driving around with loud music. It’s pretty much a 17 day long festival filled with craziness. Every year the board of the Russ introduces that years knuter (knots) which sets the mood for what the celebration is going to look like. We tie knots and different things into the line of our hats when we have accomplished a task, like a twig for having sex in the forest – or a dog treat for crawling into a shop barking at dog food for 4 minutes. I feel insane as I write this, but it is actually something all Norwegians look forward to from an early age. Children often collect Russekort which is more like a business card that the Russ exchange with each other. Here’s mine from 12 years ago:

 

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Which reminds me that my hat is somewhere in storage with a 12 year old dog treat attached to it. Yackh! We do actually have a Norwegian TV series called Skam (shame) that went viral – where the plot is revolved around this celebration. I think it just got remade in American, but I have no idea how they would make that work..

3. Independence Day: 17th of May is the day of the year when Norwegians actually smile at strangers and say “Gratulerer med dagen” (Congratulations with this day) while they wave their flag with one hand and eat ice cream with the other. The day starts very early, often 07:30 which in practice means 05:00 because you have to dress up in traditional celebration clothes (Bunad) which takes forever to put on. And then we go into the city centers to watch all the children march and sing, in Oslo the Royal family waves from their balcony and there are popup carnivals all over the place. Well, that’s more of a family thing, I on the other hand celebrate a bit differently, but I’ll save that for the actual 17th of may.  I’ll add an old photo of myself in my Bunad here, because I’ve been to lazy to get a new shirt, so I might not be able to wear it this year:

 

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17th of May is many Norwegians favorite day and it’s not without cause. Norway is a fairly young independent country and it brings much joy to celebrate the liberation from both Sweden and Denmark.

I hope you’ve enjoyed the May introduction and if you’ve ever wondered what would be the best time to visit Norway: May. You might want to be prepared for some snow, but all in all there’s usually a lot of sunny warm days, filled with happy and crazy Norwegians.

På gjensyn!