Some days are different than others. We have our normal daily lives, we have weekends, we have small holidays, we have days that we’ve set goals for, we have days with surprises, and we have holidays. In Norway, the 17th of May is one of the most cherished days of the year. While it may seem outdated that it represents the country’s 1814 Constitution Day, the day has has evolved into a celebration of the life and culture of Norway as well as memorialize its greatest feats in history.
Last year was my first celebration of the holiday in Norway. It was a beautiful day, but I didn’t quite understand all of what it meant to Norwegians. Having lived here now for the full year I realize it represents so much and it is a day that people look forward to for months. This winter was one of the coldest since the ’80s, there were days where the ice was so thick on the streets that nothing the city did to melt it would work, one day I had to take a different route home because the hill to my home was too slippery to get up. The days were dark with sunlight only shining a meek light for a few hours around lunch. In the beginning of March people began to talk about “the 17th” though, the light at the end of the tunnel. The day that marks the true beginning of the summer months that have been long awaited.
Funny enough, when I went to have a beauty service done in the early spring, where outside the cold winds were still blowing and freezing rain piercing cheeks, my aesthetician said not to worry about booking my summer appointment, but if I needed something for “the 17th” I better do it now. I laughed and said “really?” She too, an ex-pat, from Estonia, said “I know, I know. But honestly Brooke, Norwegians and “the 17th” it’s something I can’t describe to you. You know what I mean? These girls have more services done for this holiday then they do for their own weddings…” It was true. In Oslo, lash extensions, nails, hair, the whole glam squad comes to town. This. Day. Is. Everything.
After my session with the aesthetician, I knew I needed to worship this day the way the natives do.
What was particularly special this year was that I had my very own bunad. It has been being hand crafted in Sunnmøre custom for me for months. And I’m not the only one. In Norway it is customary for girls to receive a bunad as a gift from their mother for their confirmation, at 15 years old. They keep the bunad for the rest of their lives and wear it for the most formal occasions, it is also allowed to wear this for black tie events. The price tag? A fully suited bunad and silver costs around $7,000 USD. The main bunad shop in Norway is called Husfliden, and they have regional locations (and every region has their own style bunad, much like the Norwegian language dialects). I was measured for my bunad in Ålesund at the regional Husfliden shop. The various pieces were constructed for me by women sitting in their homes around the fjord, embroidering away in the regional style that they were taught by generations before them. And I’m not the only one who was having a bunad made! The shop was overwhelmed with orders, as they are every year.
When I arrived in Ålesund my bunad was waiting for my at my in-laws home, a majestic gift from my mother and prepared and laid out by mother-in-law.
On the day of May 17th we woke up to a beautiful traditional breakfast overlooking the fjords, which Liv Guri prepared so beautifully, as she does every meal. Rasmus helped me put on my bunad, and Liv Guri helped me fasten all of the jewelry on just right. Then we set out for the day! A day filled with watching the beautiful parade in town, having lunch at a marina side cafe, greeting friends and family, having a lovely dinner with Rasmus’s 97 year old grandfather, visiting the horses, and going to a beautiful orchestra concert… I tried to soak in every last minute of it. It was beautiful and marvelous. I think that living in this country, appreciating everything Norwegians do and the way they do them came to light for me on this day. While Norwegians have a wonderful quality of life in respect to the current global scene; they also represent a lot of endurance and hope (historically), they are a people who typically don’t make excuses but rather find a way, and out of the harsh cold winter comes the sun, the greenery, the country, and that’s when it’s people are worshipped… on this magnificent ceremonial day.
Please enjoy the photos below which show the town parade which included many groups, many of which being the local schools!
(Feel free to share my photos, just tag my blog www.BrookeEriksen.com or Instagram name @norskeventyr thanks!)