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17/05/2011 / Julie

17th of May

Tomorrow is a big day in Norway. It is a national holiday, everyone takes to the streets and we celebrate our country from morning ’till evening. It is what we are good at. There are marching bands, children marching, more flags than you can count, and every single person in Norway is invited to join in. We do not celebrate with fireworks, or anything like that, it is a day to celebrate Norway on all its glory.

The history of this day begins in 1814 when a gang of Norwegians, farmers with a certain amount of money, scholars and priests gathered at a place called Eidsvoll. About an hour from where I am now. The building still stands and can be visited. At this time in Norwegian history we had been under Danish rule for almost 400 years, and we were geting tired of having no control over our own politics, at the same time around the world the American and the French revolution had just happened.

Denmark-Norway had been on Napoleon’s side during the Napoleonic wars, and had lost to Sweden, now Denmark was forced to give Norway to Sweden. During this transition the Norwegians saw that it was time to do something. We had a revolution.

They started the 11th of April and had a finished constitution on the 17th of May. The constitution was based on the principles that came out of the French and American revolution. It had Charles Montesquieu’s separation of power at the center, and it gave the power to the people. It also stated that prince Christian Frederik of Denmark was the new Norwegian king. He became the leader for the Norwegian oposition against the Swedish. It led to a short war, but ended with the signing of the convention of Moss (the place not the plant) the 14th of August. It was a cease fire agreement that led to king Christian Frederik to go back to Denmark and Norway being left under Swedish rule.

However we were allowed to keep our government and parliment, but the Swedish kept butting in, and the king still had a lot of power over us. Even though Montesquieu’s principles were at the heart of our contitution, the king was still the highest authority, this was removed in 1884. In 1884 they introduced parlamentarism.

In 1905 we left the union with Sweden.In 1905 we had a national vote to say yes or no to a monarchy, we said yes. The Russ was born, and we got our own monarchy. I say our own, it was made up of a Danish prince and a Britsh princess. Though it he turned out to be quite a wonderful king, King Haakon VII. He stood up to the nazi’s when they arrived and said that if our government where to accept a government ruled by Vidkun Quisling, he would abdicate. Our government were more than happy to stand beside our king. They went on the run, and went north, later to Sweden and soon to Britain. The King came back on the 17th of May 1945.

And I have to say I adore our monarchy. They are wonderfull representatives for our people! Our regning monarch at the moment is king Harald the V. He has power to control the state if he needs to. Every week there is something called King-in-council where the King gets an update to what our government’s been up to the past week, and he puts his signature on whatevere they want him to. He also has the power of extended veto. Which means that he can say no to anything they are putting forward if he feels that it can harm the well being of the Norwegian public. He doesn’t have the power to stop it, but he has the power to say “nope, try again.” This works as a sort of security blanket for us, the Norwegian people.

Today the 17th of May is a day of celebration. For the kids it is a day to play games, to walk in a parade and wave the flag and yell out calls, for the adults it is a day to sit back and enjoy, it is a day to rediscover your inner child, and it is a day for everyone to eat ice cream. The russ run around with their whistles and voices, the create and atmosphere and the show their enthusiasm. It is also a day for every Norwegian to show where they are from through their clothes. We do this by wearing what is known as a “bunad.” This is the national costume of Norway, and they come in a huge variation. However you are not allowed to wear the one you like best, you need to have some affiliation through family with the place that the bunad is from. Because each bunad is from a designated place. There are ones for both men and women, though the female ones are most common. The sami people of course also have their own costumes. These are wonderful and colourful things, and quite rear in south Norway.

Do not make the mistake of thinking that this celebration only takes place in Norway. As it turns out, every Norwegian around the world celebrates this day. It is a day for the public, and not the military. It is a day were we celebrate our freedom.

If you would like to see pictures from the day, then you should follow me on twitter tomorrow. I will be tweeting all day. Pictures and all! @Timandahaf or the hashtag #17thMay (though I might forget that one at times).

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