National Day in Norway is on May(Mai) 17 and I was there on that day for the first time. Over 600,000 loyal subjects were in downtown Oslo as a record 111 schools with their bands and flag waving pupils marched down the main street Karl Johans Gate and past the Royal Palace where King Harald and Queen Soya, a former commoner, waved from the balcony.
Norway was once joined with Denmark from 1381-1814 and then with Sweden until 1905 when it gained independence. The capital city was then called Christiana but later changed to present Oslo. King Harald V was born in 1937, spent the war years in USA and graduated from Oxford University at Balliol College, and ascended the throne after his father King Olav V passed away in 1991. The city centre was crowded as were other towns and villages all over the country of 4.5 million with many wearing the national costume or The Bunad, with men in jackets, waistcoats, britches, and long sox and sometimes colourful hats, and the women in bright dresses of varied colours and pleated skirts. These costumes varied depending upon the different parts of the country, and all were represented in the capital. It was a pleasure to see many immigrants and their children also wearing national Norwegian costumes and waving the red, white and dark blue flg.
For the first time the indiginous SAMI people from the Arctic North, who also live in Finland, Russia and Sweden were there with their distinctive costumes and their own 'national' flag which is now officially recognised. A red and blue halved flag with green and yellow thin stripes and a red and blue circle. Since 1997 there have been SAMI parliaments(SAMEDIGGI) in Norway, Sweden and Finland, with the Norwegian one in Karasjoh, but their flag is also flown at the Norwegian Parliament Building Storting. They also have their own National Sami Day each February.
It was also party time for thousands of school children who had completed 13 years of formal education. They were all over town in their bright red overalls with the shoulder straps hanging down and wearing red berets. Many travelled in brightly coloured buses or vans with music and slogans, and all passed out 'business cards' with their names, addresses and funny jokes and expressions. Also many of them literally passed out after all night partying and alcohol. There is another month left on the school calendar but for the senior class it will be a month of parties. After the big parade families go with their kids to the local schools and have hot dogs, ice cream and play games. Cured meats and sausages and sour cream porridge are also popular on National Day.
Down at the harbour and the entrance to Oslo Fjord, with many islands,were spectacular cruise liners, sailing ships and private yachts. Oslo City Hall, site of the annual Nobel Peace Prize award ceremony, and the Oslo Akerhus festung or fortress,formed a backdrop, with thousands packing the sidewalk cafes and floating restaurant ships at Aker Brygge, a former ship building yard converted to a walking and entertainment quay side with trendy shops, restaurants and artwork