Norway celebrates a quiet National Day as parades are cancelled

All parades have been cancelled for Norway's National Day on Sunday May 17 due to the ban on large gatherings from the coronavirus pandemic. But celebrations are going ahead in a different way.

Norway celebrates a quiet National Day as parades are cancelled
A guard stands at the castle square in Oslo, Norway, on May 16, 2020, on the eve of the Norwegian National day: AFP

To mark Norway's National Day, “syttende mai” on Sunday May 17, celebrations are being held digitally with events streamed throughout the day.

Wreath laying ceremonies, concerts, folk dances and events are taking place in different districts around Oslo.

But they can only be followed at home, watching on TV and online.  Some timings of recordings won’t even be announced, to avoid a risk of crowds.  It’s hoped people will feel the party atmosphere from joining in together at home.

At 1pm national broadcaster NRK will show a cannon salute from Akershus Fortress, after which people are encouraged to go on to their balconies or into the street to join in a nationwide rendition of the national anthem.

There will also be pop-up concerts with marching bands in different city districts throughout the day. People are encouraged to sing along as they pass, keeping in mind the distancing rules of one metre.

More information of the day’s events can be found on the City of Oslo website.

On the Åkra beach in Karmøy, the celebration has been marked with a thousand flags placed at intervals of one metre, to symbolise the social distancing the country now has to adhere to.

On Friday, Norway's national broadcaster NRK managed to get the country's entire government to attempt the new dance routine it has put together for National Day celebrations — with predictably hilarious results as you can see here:

Watch Norway's entire government do a May 17 dance routine

Despite the new schedule for the country's national day, the cancellation of the children's parades is a huge loss for many Norwegians.

Started 150 years ago, when a group of several hundred children marched up to the Royal Castle in Oslo, they are a central feature of the country's “syttende mai”, celebrations, which mark the signing of the Norwegian constitution in 1815.

Children usually walk through their communities, led by marching bands, greeted by crowds as large as tens of thousands of people, waving flags and cheering. In Oslo, the royal family wave to crowds from the Royal Palace balcony as the parades pass by.

“It strikes deep to not have a children's parade in Oslo. This has historical dimensions,” Pia Farstad Von Hall, the leader of Oslo's May 17 committee told NRK when the decision was made in April to cancel the parade.

The celebration of Norway's National Day, which commemorates the signing of the constitution on that date in 1814, is a big event for the country.

The day is also an opportunity for men and women to show off their “bunad”, Norway’s traditional costumes. There are hundreds of different ones, with colours and styles indicating where in Norway the owner’s ancestry lies.

You can read how celebrations usually take place here.




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Oslo police stop May 17th parade with ‘around 150’ participants

Police in Oslo halted a parade to mark Norway’s National Day on Monday in which the number of participants appeared to exceed the city’s current restrictions on public assembly.

Oslo police stop May 17th parade with 'around 150' participants
Photo by Ernest Ojeh on Unsplash

Around 150 people gathered in central Oslo to take part in a parade, which was stopped by police as it headed towards the Royal Palace, newspaper VG reported.

“They had a size of about 150, give or take. They were moving around the city centre and at one point crossed Karl Johan (street) towards the palace,” senior police officer Tor Gulbrandsen told VG.

The event was called an “alternative May 17th parade” by Gulbrandsen, in absence of the city’s regular National Day celebrations.

Norway’s current coronavirus restrictions allow parades of up to 200 people provided social distancing is observed. But restrictions in Oslo are significantly tighter, with public assembly limited at 10 people.


“Another event was taking place at the palace. The police therefore chose to stop this alternative parade before it reached Slottsplassen [Palace Square, ed.],” the police officer said.

Participants joined the parade as a protest against Norway’s coronavirus restrictions, VG writes.

The royal family was on the balcony at the palace, in keeping with regular May 17th traditions, as the alternative parade approached the location, police said.

“Things happened calmly, but the police had to clearly communicate with the organisers to prevent them from disrupting the other event,” Gulbrandsen said.

That included using megaphones to inform them that their event was “illegal”.

The parade then moved towards the Egertorget square, by which time the number of participants had dwindled.

“Police were in the area to ensure they did not disrupt other events and have thoroughly documented the behaviour that went on. We must subsequently look at whether there will be stronger response (by police), it is too early to say as of now,” Gulbrandsen told VG.