Saturday, May 17, 2008

Syttende Mai!

Celebrating Norwegian Constitution Day
(Syttende Mai)
May 17th

Hurrah! Today is Norwegian Constitution Day! A good friend of mine surprised me with a photograph of her new manicure in tribute to the special day. (I spy your Viking scroll work inspired ring, Luci.)

Syttende Mai holds special meaning in the hearts of Norwegians and Norwegian-Americans.

What is the significance of Syttende Mai? Norwegians have a proud and independent past, dating from before the time of the Vikings. The country was weakened soon after by civil wars and plagues and fell under the rule of Denmark, followed by Sweden. In 1905, after nearly 100 years of Swedish rule and wars between Norway and Sweden, an overwhelming majority of voters in Norway voted for independence. The country's constitution was drawn many years before independence was regained, and the struggle is still recent in the ancestral memories of Norwegians and those who emigrated from the homeland.

May 17th also marks the coming of true spring in the experience of many Norwegians. My great grandmother, Malla Johnson, always told her brood that the garden must be planted by Syttende Mai. And, the only song she was ever heard humming or singing under her breath was Norway's National Anthem: Ja, vi elsker dette landet (Yes, we love this land).

First verse:

Ja, vi elsker dette landet

som det stiger frem,

furet, værbitt, over vannet,

med du tusen hjem.

Elsker, elsker det og tenker

på vå far og mor

og den saganatt som senker

drømme på vår jord.

og den saganatt som senker

drømme på vår jord.


Yes, we love with fond devotion

This our land that looms

Rugged, storm-scarred o'er the ocean

With her thousand homes.

Love her, in our love recalling

Those who gave us birth.

And old tales which night, in falling,

Brings as dreams to earth.

And old tales which night, in falling,

Brings as dreams to earth.

Ballard, a Scandinavian community within the city limits of Seattle, holds a parade in celebration each May 17th. This Flickr photograph is a sample of what you will see beginning at about 4 p.m. in the streets of Ballard today.

Happy Syttende Mai!


  1. Mountain Girl:

    I think I recognize that hand and it's far too still for the person it's connected to.

    There must be fifty projects going just outside the view of the camera.

    And where's her blog?


  2. Maven,

    You are SO right, ha ha!!! And projects, she's got a plenty! I guess I'll have to do a little prodding about the blog, but good things are worth waiting for.

  3. Thanks for the reminder for Syttende Mai. I'm not sure if my "Norski" nephew has been learning much about either his Norwegian or Polish heritage. I'll have to think of some activities for him that will spark his interest!


  4. "Syttende Mai", that's very Riksmaal. :p
    We say "søttne Mai" these days. If we write it, we write "17. Mai".

    Is it riksmaal, bokmål or nynorsk you've learned?

    The weather here was -terrible-!! 8 degrees Celsius and raining! They said it was the worst May 17th in 50 years, had to cook our hot dogs indoors instead of barbecuing.

  5. Hi Thea,

    Are you writing from Norway? If so, great! I was wondering how long it would be before someone in Norway discovered my blog.

    I'm not sure where the spelling "Syttende Mai" comes from, but the local Norwegian clubs and instructors I know use that spelling.

    Thanks for dropping by!

  6. Yes I am. ;) I found your blog on Twingly, was searching for "Norwegian" to find one of my own posts and I found yours. Must be destiny!

    Tell them I told them that they're wrong lol. We don't write "Syttende Mai", and very few people actually pronounce it like that.

    Norwegian is always evolving, so I guess it's hard to keep up with the trends here if they don't live here.