International Student Blog

Syttende Mai (17th of May)

It’s coming… syttende mai or the 17th of May: Norway’s Constitution Day.  Can you feel it in the air? Most likely you can feel it, as the flags have started flying, the Buekorps’ drummers have been drumming for months, and even store mannequins are wearing Norwegian ribbons. But what should you know about the syttende mai? An excellent question, here’s what I’ve learned so far about the important points of Norway’s Constitution Day.




The Constitution

The Norwegian constitution, declaring Norway’s independence, was signed on 17th May, 1814. Although Norway was ceded to Sweden (from Denmark) in 1814 and its complete independence from Sweden was still a long time coming (1905), the Norwegian constitution was in place during its union with Sweden.



“Eidsvoll riksraad 1814” by Oscar Wergeland – Archives of the Storting. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons –


The Parades

In Bergen there are two different parades. The Morgenprosesjonen (Morning Procession) starting bright and early at 7.00 and the Hovedprosesjonen (Main Procession) starting around 10.15.




The Food

As in any good celebration, the food is very important.

The day often starts with a champagne breakfast. Sour creme porridge (Rømmegrøt) and cured meats may be featured.

Additionally, the usual suspects for parade foods are consumed: ice cream (is), hotdogs (pølse), soda (brus), and other treats.



Image: Sour creme porridge and cured meat. Photo:!/oppskrift/4828/tradisjonell-roemmegroet


The Buekorps

Buekorps (“Bow Corps” or “Archery Brigade”) are a traditional part of the 17th of May in Bergen. Bands of uniformed boys drum, march, and fly their flags armed with (fake) cross-bows and rifles.  To some the sounds of the Buekorps drums echoing throughout the city herald the coming of spring.



The Bunad

Bunader are traditional Norwegian garb and designs vary depending on the location. Norwegians may dress in a bundard for special occasions including weddings, christenings, and 17th May!  In general the 17th is a time to dress up and celebrate. Even if it is as a storm trooper…










Ready to put on your bunad and get down? You might consider one or all of the many concerts and events throughout the day.

The… Henrik Wergeland

Henrik Wergeland, a Norwegian author celebrated for his poetry, is often credited with focusing syttende mai celebrations on children instead of military displays. 





And don’t forget the russ

Russen also join the celebration and may march in the parade. Remember this is their last big celebration in a long line of celebrations, and they have to take their final exams soon.




2 comments for “Syttende Mai (17th of May)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *