May 17th 1814 the constitution in Norway was adopted. In 1814, Norway had been in union with Denmark since 1380. A more than 400-year-long union relationship came to an end. Denmark-Norway union was on Napoleon’s side in the Napoleonic Wars. The fight for a free Norway only ended in 1905, when the union with Sweden was dissolved.
The constitution a symbol of hope
After the dissolution of the union with Denmark, there were conflicts between Norway and Sweden. Norway’s government initially refused a union, but a short war led to the conclusion of the Moss Convention. This agreement meant that Sweden approved Norway’s constitution, but that a Union with Sweden was to be concluded. Norway gained a form of internal self-government in the union with Sweden. As part of the settlement after the Napoleonic Wars, Denmark was to cede Norway to Sweden as war booty. In Norway there was a growing nationalism which hoped that the break with Denmark would lead to independence for Norway. A Norwegian constitution was signed at Eidsvoll by some of Norway’s most powerful men. The hope of an independent and independent Norway would win out, but not before 1905.
May 17 early on became a symbol in Norway. First, among students and some others who marked the day. The king of Sweden, who was also king of the union with Norway, actually banned the celebration of the day for several years. The king feared the nationalist wave in Norway. By forbidding the celebration of the day, the king thought it would be forgotten.
In 1821, King Karl Johan wanted an amendment to the constitution which gave the king absolute veto power and the right to dissolve the Norwegian parliament, the right to determine the agenda in the parliament and the right to remove officials. Norway of course refused this.
Nationalism grew ever stronger in Norway. This was clearly shown in literature and art. The old Norwegian language disappeared during the union with Denmark. The constitution that was written on May 17th 1814 was written in Danish. Around 1830, the discussion began as to whether Norway should not have its own language. There were two different factions among those who wanted their own language. These languages are the ones we practice in Norway today. These two languages are quite similar, but are practiced in different parts of the country.
The celebration of May 17 begins
As support for the Storting’s rejection of King Karl Johan’s proposal to amend the constitution from 1821, Norwegian nationalism grew rapidly. May 17 was initially celebrated as symbolic support for the Storting and opposition to King Karl Johan. There was also a general anti-Swedish attitude among students and academics in Norway. This attitude quickly spread to all walks of life.
In 1836 the Storting celebrated May 17. This is considered to be when Norway started celebrating May 17 as a national day. The celebration was marked throughout the country in various ways.
During World War II, the celebration was prohibited. The day was still celebrated. The war ended just before National Day in 1945. National Day is also a celebration of peace.
This is how the day is celebrated today
The very first children’s parade took place in the capital in 1870. This was then spread across the country and is today perhaps the most iconic part of the National Day celebrations. Eventually, there have been several other parades as well. During the children’s parades, the children usually go together with their school. Many schools in Norway have their own music bands, where children learn notes and play an instrument. These bands are a very important part of May 17.
May 17 is referred to as Children’s Day. On this day, it has become a tradition that children should be allowed to eat sweets, drink soft drinks and eat as many sausages as they want.
There must be nice clothes on May 17. Feel free to wear the national costume if they have it, or a nice dress for the ladies and a suit for the men. The children who play in the school band play from early morning until late in the afternoon and often wear the uniform of the school band all day. As Norway has become a multicultural society, immigrants from other countries also participate in the celebration. They may like to have their own country’s national costume.