Today, May 17th, is a difficult day to be outside of Norway if you are Norwegian. It is Norway’s National Day, the day our Constitution was written. Many people mistakenly call it Norwegian Independence Day, because it sort of equates in celebration to other Independence Days.
It’s actually a much bigger deal to most Norwegians than the 4th of July or anything though. There are parades, everyone dresses up in national costume, or at the very least in fancy clothes. Children get balloons and ice cream. Adults enjoy a drink or two, and there is a feeling of a national fete throughout the day.
When I first moved out of Norway after I was married, we tried celebrating with other ‘Norwegian Americans’. When I was growing up, whenever we lived outside of Norway for the 17th of May, my mother always helped arrange mini-parades and parties for the ex-pat community – maybe I could get some joy out of that. The first one was in Abu Dhabi — I went to the Norwegian Embassy … but it was strange. Hot weather. Lots of people from Oslo (not the ‘real’ Norway, which we all know is Bergen). Then, when we moved to the States, and the Sons of Norway were having a ‘Norwegian’ 17th of May. How totally disappointing THAT was. Before eating, we all stood up to sing the National Anthem. The AMERICAN National Anthem. THEN the Norwegian National Anthem. I was outraged.
And since then, we have not observed the day while overseas. It’s too upsetting to me to see it butchered. So, I quietly try to pretend that it is not a special day. That my heart isn’t aching to see Bergen decked out in a thousand Norwegian flags. That I don’t want to be sitting in the harbor having a beer with family and friends and watching the crowds go by.
I’ll just quietly put up this flag in the Meta instead — and then return to my desk and pretend it’s just any other day.