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17. mai is the most Norwegian day of them all!

17. mai is a special day in Norway, and internationals often like to say that it is the day when Norwegians are the most friendly and happy. This year, May 17th will be even bigger and better! How are you celebrating this year?

17 Mai feiring foran slottet VO02226 Foto Nancy Bundt

Photo: VisitOslo/Nancy Bundt

17. mai is coming! Are you ready to eat hot dogs, ice cream, sing, cheer, and wear your finest outfit in red, white, or blue?

While many countries celebrate their national day with a military parade, Norway’s 17 May is a party for everyone, especially children. Groups of friends, family, colleagues and classmates will often gather for a 17. mai breakfast – which is often a pot luck with freshly baked bread, scrambled eggs, smoked salmon, and (for the grown-ups) champagne, before heading to the city and town centers to witness the parade and activities throughout the day.

Children are the focus of 17. mai

The highlight for many is however the children’s parades, which take place across the country, where marching bands lead processions of school children through local communities. The biggest parades attract tens of thousands of people, who wave flags and shout “hurray!”. In Oslo, the parade is greeted by the royal family, who waves tirelessly to the crowds from the balcony of the Royal Palace.

It's a patriotic, but very inclusive and joyous atmosphere – visitors are welcomed warmly! Wear your finest (maybe you have something red, white or even blue?), and join the fun! The focus is primarily on eating vast amounts of ice cream and hot dogs, listening to speeches and music, and playing games at local schools, or going to a restaurant or a park and have some nice food and drinks.

Norwegian Bunad

17. mai is also the day Norwegians show off their bunads, Norway’s traditional costume worn by men and women. Like a Scottish kilt, there are many variations, with colors and styles indicating where in Norway the owner’s ancestry lies.

Want to learn more about May 17th, check out Welcome to Oslo by Oslo kommune.

17. mai med kongen

2021 - Photo: Lise Åserud/Kongehuset

Slottet på 17. mai

Photo: Visit Oslo/Heidi Thon

And what about a 17. mai cake?

Check out North Wild Kitchen's recipe for a 17. mai cake that will impress your guests!

Pavlova with decorations of strawberry, Raspberry (red) and blueberry (blue) is also popular to bring to a potluck.

And the songs?

Sing along, and prepare with the 17. mai songs here (thanks NRK!).

What happens in Oslo during May 17th?

Learn what's on during the day from Visit Oslo.

In Oslo, you can learn more about the procession and the official program here.

WildNorth 17. mai cake

17. mai cake!
Photo borrowed from
Nevada Berg, author or North Wild Kitchen.


-The Constitution of Norway was passed unanimously by the Eidsvoll Assembly on 16 May 1814 and signed the next day.

- The celebrations began spontaneously among students and others from early on, but as Norway was in a union with Sweden, King Karl Johan of Sweden and Norway banned the festivities between 1820 and 1829.

- The first public address was held in 1833 by Norwegian poet Henrik Wergeland, and from then on, 17. mai has been celebrated as Norway’s national day.

- From 1870, the day became more established with the first children’s parade in Christiania (now Oslo), an initiative taken by the author Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson, who also wrote the national anthem “Ja, vi elsker dette landet”.

- All over Norway, children’s parades form the central element of the celebrations, with school marching bands and an abundance of flags.

- The longest parade is in Oslo where about 100,000 people participate in the main festivities in the city centre. The parade includes some 100 schools and passes the Royal Palace where the royal family greet everybody from the balcony. The parade is broadcast on national television.

Text from Visit Norway