When is Independence Day in Norway (Constitution Day/Syttende Mai)?

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Independence Day in Norway isn't popular, but Constitution Day is. What other countries call their Independence Day, Norway celebrates on Constitution Day. What can travelers expect on this day in Norway? Why do they call it Norway's Constitution Day, National Day, or Syttende Mai?

When is Independence Day in Norway?

In Norway, the National Day falls on May 17, which is commonly known as Norway's Constitution Day and similar to other countries' Independence Day holidays.

Today, this day is celebrated much more than Norway's actual Independence Day on June 7.

Since 1660, Norway had been a part of the twin-realm of Denmark-Norway, and before that Norway was in the Union of Kalmar with Sweden and Denmark. The only time in Norwegian history Norway could not claim to be an independent kingdom was between 1537 and 1660 (when it was a province of Denmark). Sentiments and loyalty in Norway was always very strong towards the monarch (he was after all of Norwegian descent and heir to Norway), and very few wanted to dissolve the union in 1814.

So what is so special about May 17? The story behind the May 17 represents Norway's act to avoid being ceded to Sweden after losing a protracted and devastating war. The Norwegian constitution was the most modern in Europe at the time.

It's good to know that Norwegians celebrate their national day differently than the other Scandinavian countries, making it an interesting event for travelers.

On May 17th, visitors and locals alike watch the colorful processions of children with their banners, flags, and bands, as you see on Independence Day celebrations in many other countries.

How Is it Celebrated?

This Independence Day-style holiday in Norway is a spring celebration with a festive mood all over the country, especially in the capital of Oslo.

In Oslo, the Norwegian royal family waves to the passing processions from the palace balcony. Another special characteristic that contributes to making Constitution Day a unique national holiday is all the beautiful "Bunads" (the traditional Norwegian costumes) you can see the locals wear. What an experience for visitors!

However, there is one thing to keep in mind. If you are visiting Norway on or around this annual holiday, please know that most businesses will remain closed and better don't make any plans for shopping. The May 17 holiday in Norway is a federal holiday which nearly all businesses and shops uphold. The only open businesses are likely gas stations and hotels...and many restaurants. But even with restaurants, it will be better to double check - call ahead and ask whether they are open, just to be on the safe side. Or, plan to spend this day with friends and family in Norway, maybe celebrating the day viewing one of the local processions and then returning to the home or hotel you are staying at, so you don't have to depend on any businesses being open at all. (In that case, make sure to bring your camera for the procession.)

In Norwegian, this day is called "Syttende Mai" (May 17th), or Grunnlovsdagen (Constitution Day).