Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Syttende mai

Today is syttende mai. Literally translated, that means "the seventeenth of May," so you may be forgiven for thinking, "So what?" Ah, but you see, syttende mai is a Norwegian holiday. It celebrates the signing of the Norwegian constitution back in 1814; previous to that Norway was the weaker cousin in a union with Denmark. Denmark-Norway had gotten itself onto the wrong side of the Napoleonic wars (to be fair, England attacked them first), and as part of the peace settlement Denmark ceded Norway to Sweden, with whom Norway was linked until 1905. It had its own constitution, however, and most of its own governmental institutions.

In 1945, the Germans (who were occupying Norway) surrendered there on May 8. Rather than establishing a separate holiday for the liberation, a greater significance was accrued to syttende mai. Nowadays it's a day of parades, most particularly children's parades, but also the rampaging russ (a term for graduating high schoolers, who spend the first weeks of May in a traditional period of hedonism that's pretty out of hand by American standards--kind of like Spring Break, but it takes place everywhere, and is typified by groups of teens driving around in fancied-up vans that barely run and, well, just go read the Wiki article I linked to there).

Some Norwegian-American communities make a big deal out of the holiday, though I confess I've never been a part of any such celebrations. I do wish I could be in Bergen today, though. Hell, I wish I could be in Bergen pretty much any day.


Blogger Rita Hayworth said...

Happy Norwegian holiday!

10:45 AM  
Anonymous Pete said...

Dave, thanks for the reminder of the holiday. My Norwegian grandfather would have been disappointed in my ignorance.

12:13 PM  
Blogger Dave said...

Thank you kindly, Ms. Hayworth. And Pete, you're welcome!

9:09 PM  

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