On Friday, Norway celebrated National Day – a day when Norway celebrates its constitution, which, just behind the constitution to the United States, is the oldest in the world still in use. The day was celebrated from early morning until late in the evening, and the Royal Family has a central role in celebrating Norway and all that is Norwegian.
This is a day where the celebrations begin early. At eight o’clock in the morning, the Norwegians kick off National Day when they meet up in their traditional folk costumes to participate in different ceremonies when the flag is hoisted. These are ceremonies arranged by city councils and municipal councils, where everyone sings the national anthem and honour the fanfare when the flag goes up. It is common that after such a ceremony, a new ceremony will soon start after which short speeches are held and flowers laid down on monuments in memory of fallen Norwegian soldiers, different wars Norway has participated in and the graves of people who have been important to Norway throughout history.
The Norwegian Royal Family has two permanent events during National Day. The Norwegian Crown Prince Family begins their celebration just after the flag goes up at their home, Skaugum just outside Oslo.
At Skaugum, the Crown Prince Family receives the Norwegian tradition of “children trains”. This is a unique Norwegian way to celebrate the nation’s day, as Norwegians feel that National Day is to be the children’s day, as children are Norway’s future. Well-dressed children bring Norwegian flags and form a cheerful and somewhat noisy parade.
In Oslo and all other Norwegian cities and municipalities, the day is marked by the same traditions. The greatest celebration is in Oslo. In Oslo, the ceremony is more solemn. There the entire Royal Family participates in the festival. Before the children’s parade begins, His Majesty the King’s Guard holds a short procession with a show at the university and in front of the Royal Palace.
Before the children arrived at the Royal Palace, a member of the Oslo City Council held a short speech after the Royal Family had come at the balcony. The tens of thousands of people who met up at the Royal Palace shouted, “Long living the King” three times before singing the Norwegian royal anthem and national anthem. The children’s parade lasted for several hours and was concluded with a performance from His Majesty the King’s Life Guard’s music company.
Several tens of thousands of people stood along Oslo’s parade street and in the Palace Square to see the Royal Family. King Harald, Queen Sonja, Crown Prince Haakon, Crown Princess Mette-Marit, Prince Sverre Magnus and Princess Ingrid Alexandra represented the Norwegian Royal Family during the event in Oslo. Everyone cheered, and they were excited to see the King. The King and the Crown Prince were dressed in morning dress – a British tradition the male members of the Norwegian Royal Family have practised since 1906.
The reason why the 17 of May is Norway’s National Day goes back to 1814. It was on 17 May 1814 that Norway’s Constitution was completed, and Prince Christian Frederick was proclaimed King of Norway after being democratically elected as monarch of the assembly which wrote the Constitution. Shortly thereafter, there was a war between Norway and Sweden – a war which Norway lost. This meant that Christian Frederick had to abdicate, and Norway entered into a union with Sweden until 1905.
It was King Haakon and Queen Maud who established the tradition to greet the children in Oslo from the Palace Balcony on National Day. The custom was established in 1906 and has been held ever since. The only exceptions were in 1910 when Queen Maud’s father, British King Edward was buried, and in the years of the Second World War from 1940 to 1944.