Søttende Mai

Søttende Mai

The 17th of May is the Norwegian national day – also called Constitution Day, as they celebrate getting a constitution on 17 May 1814. It’s a day people look forward to for a long time, full of parades and music. Here in Tromsø, festivities started at 7 in the morning! As we live in the city centre, we were woken up by the marching bands very early. Coming from a country where on our national day we dress up in orange (the crazier the better) I was very impressed by how formal this day was here! We took one look out of the window and decided that jeans and a tshirt would not be appropriate….!

7 was a bit too early for us, so we gathered with a few people at 13:00. First we watched the small children parade, which was very cute. There is another parade for older school children, but this one was for the very young ones who are not going to primary school yet. Lots of them wore traditional clothes, though not all of them seemed to enjoy it 😉


Lots of people (especially the women) wear a “bunad“, a very traditional costume. They are very expensive but it looked like nearly everyone owns one, and I guess this is one of the few occasions where you get to wear it. There are so many different ones… In the photo below I show a selection.. the one on the left is the most common, and the one next to it is identical but in green. Next to that is a brighter blue one with the Tromsø palm on it, so I assume this is a regional one. I was impressed with the headdress of the woman on the right!

Men can also wear a bunad, but I didn’t see very many – most of them just wore a suit. The male version of the bunad is pretty too, you can see a picture here – I like the hat!

Then there’s also the Sami (Lapps), who wear different clothing, usually in bright blue and red – beautiful! The flag in the picture in the middle is the Sami flag. 

After the parade, we went to the main square, which was packed with people!

I’ve never seen the high street this busy… The other photo is a little stand selling crêpes.

Paul, Mats and Steve in town; and me and Marcel entertaining Emma – or was it the other way around? 😉 

There were stands everywhere, selling hot dogs and “sukkerspinn” – candy floss. The photo on the left also shows that even teenagers happily wear the bunad, very impressive!

And the dogs get to dress up too…

This was really funny, this guy was pumping up the tyres of his pram at a petrol station…

The final parade was the one with all clubs and organisations from Tromsø, and it was going through our street. Mats, Paul and Steve watched from our window, which looked very funny! The first photo is taken before the parade started, and the second one during the parade – when they changed into paparazzi 😉

They did have a nice view from there:

Below some impressions of this parade… like the scouts who managed to bring a campfire and roast marshmallows while in the parade! I was standing next to a group of women who were screaming “HURRA! HURRA! HURRA!” all the time, VERY loud…. guess what, they were all Dutch – perhaps they needed to compensate for that?? 😉

These spectators were looking really pretty, and I liked the contrast to the girl next to them 🙂

We also watched a parade of final year high school students, but I will write more about that in a later blog, as this is quite an interesting phenomenon. After the final parade, we had a nice BBQ at Marcel and Anja’s place – a perfect end to a very nice day!

5 thoughts on “Søttende Mai

  1. Moose and I were walking next to the lady in the high hat in the barnehagen parade!!! (The one in your pictures…lol.) Lilu doesn’t go to barnehagen as I’m a stay-at-home mum – so we just jumped into the procession and started waving our flags…lol.

  2. How funny! (Lucky I did not post a photo of you to comment on your clothes, hehehe). We were with friends with a small child (also not in barnehagen), and we thought about randomly joining the parade 😀 but we only had one small Norwegian flag 😉

  3. Hanneke, what a nice blog, congratulations.

    Perhaps you can help me: my husband and I are visiting Norway (including Tromso) for a week in June, and we are not sure whether we should take our dog. Have you noticed how norwegians treat their dogs? I mean, are they welcome in restaurants and stores or are they a problem?

    Thanks in advance.

  4. Hello Gi,


    Norwegians love their dogs and treat them very well, but I have never seen them inside shops or restaurants… I guess they leave them at home. I don’t have a dog though, so I might not be the right person to answer your question… but I do think you’ll have problems in places like restaurants and shops.

    Hope that helps! Have a great time in Norway!


  5. Thank you, Hanneke, I guess I’ll leave him at home then.

    Good luck to you in Tromso, and keep up the good posts.

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