Pop your 17th of May cherry

The 17th of May is definitely not a day one wants to miss out on – as we are told by many Norwegians. But what’s actually the deal with Norway’s constitutional day?

CONFUSION: The 17th of May celebrations can be confusing for first timers. ILLUSTRASJON: Tilde Torkildsen
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Processions, champagne, good vibes: It’s almost time for the biggest party of the year in Norway.

But for those about to experience the festivities for the first time, many questions about traditions, customs, and how to just have an overall good time might arise.

Studvest went out on a mission to demystify this hyped-up day and figure out if it’s worth it to get up at 6 in the morning to wave a flag all day long.  

And if you’re completely lost on what fun to join in on, we got you covered! Look down below for a detailed (and absolutely mandatory) schedule to make the most out of your 17th of May celebration in Bergen.

– What is it?

On our 17th of May journey, we first met Maxime Blondel from Canada at Fantoft. Maxime is an exchange student in Bergen, and very curious about what the 17th of May is about. 

– Like, what is it, like what will happen on the day?

Good question! We went to some of the student hotspots in Bergen to get some answers from experienced Norwegians and a real 17th of May expert.

Breakfast, mimosas, music

Our search led us to two Norwegian students, Iris Jakobsen and Oscar Lunde.

QUESTIONS. Maxime has never celebrated the 17th of May before, but is excited to do so this year. FOTO: Frøya Lofthus

– How do you usually start the 17th of May?

– Kick off with some mimosas and a traditional Norwegian breakfast with lots of eggs and salmon, Oscar recommends.

– Maybe put on some of the traditional 17th of May songs in the background while you get ready to sort of get a feeling of what the day will look like, is what Iris’ perfect start of the celebrations looks like.

She recommends the song «17. Mai er vi så glad i» – but the party version. Look it up!

Get out early!

When it comes to the 17th of May, the early bird catches the worm. Iris repeatedly comes back to the fact that one must just get out early. But how early is the right early, and why bother at all?

– You should absolutely be out in the city at 10:30 the latest, says expert Liv Cecilie Lycke. 

GOOD TIME: Iris and Oscar recommends taking it easy on the drinking, so you’ll last through the day. FOTO: Frøya Lofthus

Liv Cecilie knows her stuff about the 17th of May, and can boast 17 years of experience in the official 17th of May committee of Bergen. The past three years she has been the chairwoman of the committee that plans and organizes the celebrations and activities in the center of Bergen. 

– It’s a day with much, much content, explains Liv Cecilie and points out Bergen’s 176-year-old 17th of May traditions. And to catch all of this wonderful and traditional content, you gotta be out early!

You will be rewarded with experiencing the famous procession that makes its way throughout all of Bergen’s center; probably the most prominent tradition of the city.

– You don’t mess with the procession. It’s holy, Liv Cecilie says and smiles.

And Bergen doesn’t have one, but two of these processions. 

– One of them is a like a carnival, while the is more traditional with children waving their flags.

Pro tip: Ideally you’ll want to find a place where you can see both processions meet each other for maximum fun. Liv Cecilie recommends finding a spot in the national theater’s park, Ole Bulls plass or Torgallmenningen.

Drinking games and chill
EXPERT: Liv Cecilie is the expert on all things 17th of May. FOTO: Carolin Schefner

We continue our journey and meet Anna Leuding Rudeng and Sofie Iversen Kalvatn. Despite the rain, both of them are in a really good mood. They seem very knowledgeable on how to have a good time on the 17th of May. Their tip is to go to the park and play some «17th of May games».

– Last year we stayed in Nygårdsparken. That was really nice, I recommend that, smiles Anna.

The game that first came to their minds was ølkubb (beer cube). You play ølkubb by throwing some sticks around. If you’re not familiar with it, we recommend you to find the nearest Norwegian and let them explain it to you. Chances are high that they will gladly do so on the 17th of May. 

– Everyone’s waving flags and saying «happy birthday» to everyone, so it’s very easy to come in contact with people, says Ingeborg Frey Frøslie whom we met in the museum’s gardens.

– It’s very different for Norway, laughs Thomas Godø who is walking together with Ingeborg.

Ingeborg enjoys to just «drift around» outside and meet people, or cozy up in the park with good friends and lunch, and just relish in the energy of the city. Thomas thinks that the general vibe of Bryggen can’t be missed out on. Sometimes that’s all you need to have the perfect 17th of May celebration.

Dance, dance, dance

For those of you who are looking for a party, though, Festplassen is the main attraction of the evening.  

GAMES: Anna and Sofie recommend playing «17th of May» games in the park on the 17th of May. FOTO: Frøya Lofthus

– Last year we had a really good atmosphere there. Very, very fun with all the jumping and dancing, tells us Liv Cecilie.

Here you will also have the best view of the highlight of the celebrations: The firework show! Perfect conditions to make the most out of your 17th of May.

The perfect day to be thankful

Above all, Liv Cecilie highlights one little thing that people tend to forget about: What are we actually celebrating? Yes, yes, Norway gained independence from Denmark on the 17th of May 1814 (but then Sweden took over anyways for a while), so what’s actually the deal here? 

COZY: Ingeborg and Thomas tell us about a more cozy and chill side of the 17th of May. FOTO: Frøya Lofthus

– It is also important that we understand that we are doing well in Norway, and that this hasn’t just happened by itself, thinks Liv Cecilie.

– This is a day to be thankful for what we get in Norway, she continues and points out that this is where Norwegians derive their pride from.

Maybe there’s something you’re proud of that deserves celebration, too?

The 17th of May gives permission to be completely yourself, and go all out celebrating – from the moment you get out of bed. And if that’s not a reason to get up early, then we don’t know what else is.

To make things even better, you don’t have to plan your 17th of May, because we already did it for you. Here comes what you’ve been waiting for: The schedule!

The schedule

8:00 Get dressed up and grab a flag!

Throw on something fancy, but have fun with it! Funny hats are allowed and wanted! Clip on a nice red and blue ribbon to tie it all together. Don’t forget the flag! To get in the mood, turn on some 17th of May bangers, but the party version, please!

8:30 Traditional Norwegian breakfast

Enjoy scrambled eggs, salmon, and strawberries in the company of family or friends. Open the breakfast with a champagne or mimosa toast (but pace the drinking or you’ll miss out on the fun during the day!).

CELEBRATE: Liv Cecilie thinks it’s important to celebrate that we can be ourselves in Norway. FOTO: Carolin Schefner

10:00 Be in the city center

Greeting all passers-by with «Hipp Hipp Hurra!» or «Gratulerer med dagen!» is strongly recommended. Wave the flag!

10:30 Watch the procession(s)

This is absolutely the most essential part of the day. No excuses. There are two simultaneous parades that meet and pass each other. The best watching spot is the national theater, Ole Bulls plass, and Torgallmeningen, then you will not miss any of them. High quality of Bergen’s 17th of May experience is guaranteed!

12:45 Listen to the speeches and watch performances at Festplassen

Stay in a sublimed mood after the parade. Reflect on Norwegian history and democratic values.

14:00 Have lunch in a park!

Muséhagen, Nygårdsparken, Nordens… It’s up to you where you want to enjoy your friends’ (or strangers’ that will become your friends) company and eat hot dogs and ice cream. Enjoy the weather (even if it rains), and just have fun!

16:00 Play 17th of May games

In other words, play drinking games… But don’t overdrink. Remember that many events are yet to come!

18:00 Just drift around

Enjoy the vibe and good energy that is spread everywhere. Get the chance to speak to Norwegians for the first time (believe us, everybody is in a better mood than usual).

20:00 Join the concerts and disco at Festplassen

Enjoy the music coming straight from Vikingskipet at Festplassen. The stage looks like a Viking boat, and it’s your mission to play as hard as a real Viking.

Line up: Zupermaria, Kamara, DJ Tarjei Strøm.

Dance, dance, dance… And if you are still alive, stay there until the official end of the day, which is…

23:15 The fireworks show at Festplassen!

Is it New Year’s Eve? Of course not. But your level of excitement will be comparable to this magic night when you feel only happiness and gratitude for being at the right place at the right time.

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