This past weekend, May 17th, Norwegians both in Norway and in this country actively celebrated Syttende Mai, which marks Norway's Independence from Sweden which took place nearly two centuries ago.
This day in Norway is marked by many parades, with school children playing a major role. There, each elementary school community arranges its own parade including marching bands. The parade takes the children through the community, often making stops at homes of senior citizens, nursing homes and war memorials.
Typically a school’s children parade will consist of some school children carrying the school’s official banner, followed by a handful of other older children carrying full size Norwegian flags, and the school’s marching band. After the band, the rest of the school children follow with hand sized flags, often with the junior grades first, and often behind self made banners for each grade or even individual class. Nearby kindergartens may also have been invited to join in. As the parade passes, bystanders often join in behind the official parade, and follow the parade back to the school. Depending on the community, the parade may make stops at particular sites along the route, such as a nursing home or war memorial.
In addition to flags, people typically wear red, white and blue ribbons. Although a long-standing tradition, it has lately become more popular for men, women, and children to wear traditional outfits, called bunad. The children also make a lot of noise shouting "Hurra!", singing, blowing whistles and shaking rattles.
In addition to children's parades, there are parades for the public, where every citizen is welcome to join in. These are led by marching bands and often local boy scouts and girl guides, local choirs, etc. This takes place in the early morning or in the afternoon, before or after the school's parade.
All parades begin or end with speeches. Both grown-ups and older children are invited to speak. After the parades, there are games for the children, and often a lot of ice cream, pop, sweets and hotdogs are consumed.
Throughout the Midwest, many communities also have many of these same kinds of celebrations for Syttende Mai including festive parades On this day, however, I had the pleasure of visiting a Norwegian Heritage center called Norskedalen near Coon Valley, Wisconsin. There, I learned much about my heritage, my roots, and the journeys and travels of my forefathers as you might gather from my photos. For more information on this fine Heritage Center, one may go on line to their web site at www.norskedalen.org
During the weekend, I also took time to to enjoy some rhubarb and some leftse.
Our Fourth in the North
9 months ago