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Scandinavia's biggest street party takes off in Oslo 17th May

Press release   •   May 16, 2014 09:16 BST

The Norwegian royal family is set to greet a procession of children from more than
100 schools from their balcony at the Royal Palace in Oslo this 17 May, as part
of the 200 year Norwegian constitution celebrations.

Norway’s national day, 17th of May, is a celebration of the Norwegian constitution – now the oldest standing constitution in Europe and the second oldest in the world.

This year it is 200 years since a contingent of farmers, businessmen and politicians gathered to draft a new constitution at Eidsvoll on 17 May 1814, ending 400 years of Danish autocracy. Despite not gaining full independence until 1905 as Norway stayed in a union with Sweden, this date remains the country’s official national day.

Throughout Norwegian towns and villages, people meet in the streets decorated with flags and birch to take part in national day children parades known as “barnetog”, as well as a range of other

A Royal wave

Some hundred thousand people are expected to gather in the centre of Oslo for the bicentenary. The capital has the longest children’s procession in Norway with 109 participating schools proudly carrying banners, waving flags and shouting ‘hurrah’ alongside school marching bands and baton twirlers.

Tens of thousands line the city’s main street Karl Johans gate to watch the children’s joyous revelry as the parade moves up to the royal palace square, where the whole Royal family greet the procession from their balcony – a century old tradition.

Traditional dress

What makes the celebrations such a picturesque display is the amount of children and adults dressed head to toe in the traditional dress “bunad”, which vary in colour and style depending on the region the family descend from.

Women bustle past in floor-length woollen dresses - one more colourful than the other – white shirts, aprons and laced-up bodices elaborately decorated with embroidery and jewellery. Young boys run around in knee socks, plus fours and waistcoats that match their fathers, while high school graduates
known as “russ” sport overalls in fire-engine red and sky blue. The effect is quite wonderful and completely transforms the cities and towns.


Notes to editor:

Children play an important role in the celebrations of the Norwegian national day. The poet Henrik Wergeland has been credited with turning 17th May into a celebratory day for the children rather than a day of patriotic pride with military parades. His thought was that the day should demonstrate that the children - the country's future - are the patriotic pride.

The first children’s parade took place in Oslo in 1870 after an initiative from the Nobel Price winning author Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson.

Each town have their own traditions for the national day celebrations. In Bergen for example, the parade include comic troupes, the unique buekorps bands battering their drums, followed by a fun harbour rowing race and a firework display in the evening.

 Visit Norway is Norway's official tourist board

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