Sunday, May 17, 2009
Constitution Day, observed on May 17, commemorates the first Norwegian constitution drafted at Eidsvoll in 1814. Now it celebrates Norwegian independence as a whole, which was granted by Sweden in 1905.
Eurovision win aside, Norwegians don’t necessarily need a good reason to celebrate Constitution Day; the Norwegian people are some of the most patriotic in Europe and the iconic national flag, red with a white and indigo blue Scandinavian cross, can be seen waving from buildings and in the hands of most Norwegians at festivals and parties.
Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg, on a visit to Spain, was greeted by 2,000 Norwegian expatriates waving flags in the town of Torrevieja, where he gave a speech, giving warm greetings in both Spanish and Norwegian. Stoltenberg noted that 40,000 Norwegians live in Spain, roughly 1% of Norway’s current population, and was impressed by the turnout not only from Norwegian citizens but also from Spanish people who also helped celebrate Norway’s Constitution Day. Stoltenberg was later joined by Spanish and Norwegians at the old sailor’s church in Torrevieja, where he placed a wreath commemorating fallen Norwegian sailors.
In Norway, the annual Oslo Children’s Parade, a national institution, occurred in the morning with children from all 111 of Oslo’s schools taking part. The children walked with brass bands playing festive music up Oslo’s main street, Karl Johans gate, to the Royal Palace where they were warmly greeted by the Royal Family. Crown Prince Haakon and Crown Princess Mette-Marit, who greeted children in Asker earlier in the morning, toured the Oslo ward of Grünerløkka in the afternoon. All celebrations in Norway went off with few errors, the most notable being the delay of trains using the Oslo Tunnel, in which a helium balloon floated into the tunnel, causing a brief scare for train operators.
Celebrations for Norway’s Constitution Day occurred all over the world, from a gathering in a Shanghai hotel where 300 Norwegians feasted on imported traditional Norwegian foods, to a street parade in Brisbane, Australia, where the police had to stop traffic for the revelers. Norway’s neighbor Sweden was especially happy on Constitution Day, where Norwegian-Swedes dressed in folk costumes and held up copies of the newspaper Expressen, who deemed Norway’s winning Eurovision song “the best winner since ABBA” and published a large headline in Norwegian, stating “We look forward with you.”
Constitution Day will end with Norway’s new national hero Rybak, deemed “Alexander the Great” in the Norwegian newspapers, arriving at Oslo’s Gardermoen airport at 9:25 p.m. local time (1925 UTC). Record crowds are expected to greet him, as he invited everyone via state television to the airport for his trip home.