Celebrations

17th May - Constitution Day (Nasjonaldagen) 🇳🇴

What to say

On 17th May 1814, the Constitution of Norway was signed at Eidsvoll declaring Norway to be independent. Impress the locals by learning to say “gratulerer med dagen” which loosely translates to “congratulations on this special day” when you meet people that day.

What to wear

If there was any a day to dress up, this would be that day. You will see most Norwegians in their Bunads (traditional Norwegian costume). There are more than 450 different types of bunads from all over Norway and which one is worn depends on which part of Norway one comes from. So dress smartly - suits for men, or a jacket at the very least, and a smart dress or suit for women.

What to do

Yes it’s a public holiday which means you don’t have to work but no it’s definitely not a day to have a lie in! In fact, it is common for families and/or friends to come together and start celebrating very early (before the parades) with a huge breakfast spread. Quite often, this is done pot luck style with typical foods such as freshly baked bread, scrambled eggs, smoked salmon, hot dogs, ice-cream and even some bubbly (for adults only of course!)

What to see

Unlike many other countries, there are no military parades in Norway on the 17th. But there is a huge party that everyone, especially children, take part in. You will see children (and adults) waving the national flag and walking in long parades through town as early as 9:30. There will also be marching bands from schools. It is common for children to go back to their schools to play games after the parade.

You may also see teenagers who are graduating from high school, dressed in red, blue, black, and green jumpsuits. They are referred to as “russ” and they have their own parades with hand decorated buses and vans playing loud music, normally later in the day.

What to remember and expect

Remember that the weather in May can be unpredictable - it may rain, it may be sunny, it may snow (we kid you not, it has happened before on the 17th of May) or you may get a combination of one or all of these variations. Bring an umbrella and a jacket that will see you through most of the day.

Expect queues. For everything. Whether it’s to get some food or drinks or taking public transport.

How to get there

Don’t even think of driving to the city centre! Streets will be closed for the parades so taking public transport is highly recommended. Expect some delays. Allow yourself an extra 20-30 minutes to get to your destination.

Programme highlights 

Immerse yourself in the celebrations on the 17th of May. Check out the exciting programme that the Arendal Municipality has planned for the day and be part of commemorating Norway's National Day! 

 
 
 
 

24th June - Sankthans

Sankthans

Sankthans is a traditional celebration observed in several Scandinavian countries, including Norway. It commemorates the birth of John the Baptist on the 24th of June. The Norwegian name "jonsok" comes from "jónsvaka", which is Norse and means "watchful night for Jon”.

The celebration, which has pagan roots, was originally linked to ancient solstice rituals marking the longest day of the year. Sankthans used to be a public holiday in Norway until 1770.

Overall, Sankthans in Norway is a joyous occasion marked by outdoor gatherings, bonfires, delicious food, and a strong sense of community spirit. It's a time for Norwegians to celebrate the beauty of nature, the warmth of friendship, and the abundance of the summer season.

Bonfires

It is on the eve of Sankthans ie 23rd of June that the celebration comes to live with the lighting of bonfires - a central custom of Sankthans in Norway.

Communities gather around large bonfires built on beaches, in parks, or on hilltops. These bonfires are often adorned with birch branches, flowers, and sometimes a straw effigy symbolising winter or evil spirits.

Bonfires to drive away evil spirits are said to have roots back to the 4th century, when church and pagan traditions were merged into one and the same folk festival. People gather around the bonfire to socialise, sing traditional songs, and enjoy the warmth of the fire.

Outdoor Gatherings

Sankthans is a time for outdoor festivities, so many Norwegians spend the day picnicking, barbecuing, and enjoying outdoor activities with family and friends. It's common for people to bring blankets, food, and drinks to the bonfire sites and spend the evening together in a relaxed atmosphere.

Traditional Foods

Like any Norwegian celebration, Sankthans involves delicious traditional foods. Grilled sausages, seafood such as shrimp and salmon, and strawberries are popular choices for Sankthans gatherings. It's also common to enjoy cakes, pastries, and other sweet treats.

 

 

Sankthans Decorations

In addition to bonfires, maypoles adorned with flowers, ribbons, and greenery are sometimes erected in public spaces. While the maypole tradition is more prevalent in Sweden, some communities in Norway also incorporate it into their Sankthans celebrations.

 

Community Events

Many towns and cities across Norway organise public Sankthans events, complete with music performances, cultural displays, and activities for children. These events often attract locals and tourists alike, providing an opportunity for people to come together and celebrate the arrival of summer.

Fun Fact

The most spectacular Sankthans bonfire in recent times is the huge tower of pallets , boxes and barrels that is built every year on Slinningsodden in Ålesund. In 2016, a world record was set as it towered 47.39 metres tall.

 


Last modified 23 May 2024
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