Can Norway’s much-loved National Day celebrations still go ahead?

It's the day when Norway's streets are crammed with hundreds of thousands of jubilant children dressed in bunad folk costume. But is Norway's National Day -- May 17 -- too close to the expected tail-end of the coronavirus lockdown to go ahead?

Can Norway's much-loved National Day celebrations still go ahead?
The crowds at this National Day celebration in Grimstad are perfect conditions for coronavirus. Photo: Jan Skaragrøm/Visit Norway

Norway's National Day marches are held to celebrate the signing of the The Constitution of Norway on 17 May 1814, a day after it was agreed at the Eidsvoll Assembly, and from 1870, has been centred around the children's parades which snake through every major town, with about 100,000 joining the biggest in Oslo. 

But the press of people and the large crowds they bring could risk triggering a renewed wave of coronavirus infections, making it look a little unlikely the marches will go ahead.  
National Day organising committees across Norway are still waiting for a decision from central government. 
“We need some sort of central guidance to be able to handle this  decision in a good way,” Mira Svartnes Thorsen, the May 17 coordinator in Kristianstad, complained to Norway's state broadcaster NRK
Norway's government last Wednesday banned all big events involving more than 500 people for an initial 14-day period in one of the first steps it took, before instituting a much wider coronavirus lockdown. It will almost certainly extend this ban when the initial two-week period comes to an end next Wednesday, pushing the ban into April. 
But will the lockdown continue into the middle of May? And it is mostly lifted by then, will it anyway be sensible to hold an event involving such a tight press of people?  
The National Institute of Public Health told NRK that no decision had yet been made over May 17. And if it is deemed safe to hold the event, National Day would be a perfectly timed way to celebrate more a month of self-imposed isolation. 
The National Day procession in Oslo. Photo: Tomasz Majewski/Visit Oslo
But other international events scheduled for around or after May 17 have already been cancelled. 
The Eurovision Final, which was to be held just the day before Norway's National Day on May 16, was shelved this week, as was the UK's Glastonbury Festival, which wouldn't have been held until June 24. 
In Stavanger and Oslo, city leaders have already signalled that the May 17 events will be cancelled, or at least severely curtailed. 
“I will not be surprised if it happens [that the May 17 procession is cancelled],” Mayor Raymond Johansen said at a press conference last week, according to NRK. “It could well be a different celebration from what we're used to.” 
Erik Næsgaard, chairman of the May 17 committee in Bergen, said that he was in talks with the municipality, the police, the fire department the local council, but that so far no plans had been changed. 
“We are still planning as normal, but are prepared to cancel the big event at short notice,” he said. 
Sissel Trønsdal, leader of the May 17 committee in Trondheim, told NRK she expected this year's celebrations to be different, if they happen at all. 
“What will probably happen is that we will have a different May 17 than we have planned,” she said. 
She called on organisers to “think alternatively” about the festival, and to take the volunteer spirit, or 'dugnad', seen in recent days and channel it and May 17 funds into helping keep alove cultural life threatened by the lockdown. 
Ali Horori,  leader of the May 17 committee in Bodø, said he was still hoping for the events to go ahead. “It's good to be optimistic,” he said. “But we will not do anything that detracts from the safety and security of citizens.” 

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Six things the Covid crisis has taught us about Norway 

Now that most of the national measures in Norway have been lifted it's a good time to reflect on what the pandemic has taught us about the country. From social distancing, second homes and tough border restrictions. Here's what Covid-19 has taught us about the country and its people. 

Six things the Covid crisis has taught us about Norway 
The pandemic has taught us a lot about Norway. Photo by Mikita Karasiou on Unsplash

Norwegians have been social distancing since before the pandemic 

Norwegians are generally a reserved bunch, or so the stereotype goes, and while it’s never good to paint everybody with the same brush, Norwegians, generally speaking, haven’t minded social distancing or limiting contact at all. In fact, they have been doing it since before the pandemic began. 

Anyone who has ever waited at a bus stop or been part of a queue in Norway will be able to attest to this. At bus stops, especially there has always seemed to be an unwritten code of social distancing in place. 

The only place where Norwegians seem to break this unwritten rule of social distancing is in the lifts for the ski slopes; then it’s every man, woman and child for themselves. 


Dugnad can loosely be translated as unpaid or voluntary work done as a group. Dugnad can also be described as a state of mind, the collective working together for the good of everyone. 

Typically, dugnad was associated with sports teams and scouts selling kitchen supplies and toilet rolls to pay for a trip away or the inhabitants of an apartment block coming together to clean the communal areas. 

When the pandemic first hit, Korona-dugnad and Nasjonal dugnadsånd were deployed to bring the country together in fighting the virus. 

Nasjonal dugnadsånd was used to rally the public and inspire a sense of national duty in following infection measures. 

As a result, people in Norway, on the whole, have done a very commendable job of following infection control measures.

Therefore, this has made it especially inflammatory when those in charge of leading the nations fight against Covid-19 have breached protocols. 

The prime example of this was when it was revealed that Prime Minister Erna Solberg had broken national infection control rules on a birthday trip to ski resort Geilo, southern Norway, in February. 

READ MORE: Norwegian prime minister fined for Covid-19 rules breach

Norwegians love for their country retreats has grown fonder

Many people dream of a place in the sun where the climate is warmer, and the pace of life is more relaxed. 

In Norway, more dream of a hytte, a cabin in the mountains or by the sea. 

Norwegians always have, and always will love their hytteturs (cabin trips).

That love has only intensified thanks to Covid-19 travel restrictions. 

Some of the most talked-about topics when it comes to Covid-19 restrictions in the Nordic country have been issues related to cabins. 

Whether a cabin ban would be introduced, as it was in 2020, dominated the headlines in Norway in the run-up to Easter. 

For so many Norwegians, cabins are so much more than just a second home; they are a core part of Norway’s national identity. 

Cabins represented a sense of freedom, Hygge (cosiness) and normality, in the strangest year of many Norwegians lives. 

READ MORE: ‘Hyttefolk’: Why Norwegians are so passionate about cabin retreats 

Contactless is king in Norway 

Cash seemed to be on its way out for a while now in Norway, and the pandemic seems to have only sped this up even further. 

Norway has always been ahead of the curve when it comes to going contactless, with money-sharing apps like Vipps being used by most people in Norway since its launch in Norway in 2015. 

Many businesses used the pandemic as an excuse to cut out cash completely, and even some churches even made the switch to contactless payment. This is even though it is still a legal requirement for businesses to accept cash. 

“Walking around with a full wallet has completely lost its status, and the pandemic has reinforced it. So we look at physical money differently, like walking around with a cigarette in your mouth,” Professor of Service Innovation at the Norwegian School of Economics, Tor W. Andreassen told financial paper E24

Unclear and constant communication 

Overall, Norway has done an excellent job of handling the pandemic.

As a result, it has one of the lowest Covid death rates per 100,000 in Europe and the world

However, it hasn’t always been a smooth ride for the Nordic country’s inhabitants. 

Communication from the government and health authorities has, at times, been frantic, frequent and not always very clear. 

Firstly is the mix of recommendations and regulations. Covid measures in Norway have been a constant mix of enforceable restrictions and suggestions that have no consequences if not adhered to. 

READ MORE: What happens if you get caught breaking the Covid-19 rules in Norway

Add into the mix that each of Norway’s municipalities can enforce its own policy on matters such as face masks, social gatherings, and the opening and closing of businesses has meant that trying to navigate what is and isn’t against the rules has been a labyrinthian task at times. 

In addition to this government has delayed big decisions, for months at a time in some cases. The decision to scrap the AstraZeneca vaccine, for example, took two months- including almost a month after health authorities recommended that government axe the vaccine. 

The implementation of what on paper have seemed like relatively straightforward rule changes have also been an issue. 

In May, Norway announced that arrivals from countries with less than 150 Covid-19 cases per 100,000 people could skip quarantine hotels.

In the following days, arrivals exempt under the new rules were being put into the hotels anyway as border police and the authorities responsible said they hadn’t been informed of the new regulations. 

All of this is even before mentioning the numerous changes to the vaccine strategy in Norway.

Norway isn’t afraid play hardball over its border 

Norway has had some of the most rigid entry restrictions and requirements anywhere in Europe during the pandemic. 

For almost half a year, the country has been closed to nearly everyone who isn’t a Norwegian citizen or resident of the country. 

Tight border controls have continued in the face of criticism and condemnation from the EFTA Surveillance Authority, which is responsible for making sure all EEA members comply with the free movement of people. 

Until May, legal foreign residents were still barred from entering the country unless they were in the national population register. 

The stringent border policy has had the desired effect of limiting imported Covid-19 infection. 

However, it’s come at a cost as countless lives have been left on hold, lovers have been separated and many are left wondering when they can reunite with family again. 

READ MORE: ‘Inhumane and discriminatory’: How Norway’s closed Covid border has left lives on hold 

The issue has been exasperated by the government pushing back opening the borders and remaining tight-lipped on when it will ease restrictions for travellers.