Everything you didn’t know you needed for a successful 17th of May

Source: Dagbladet, Hvitt 17. mai i Oslo

After many celebrations of Norway’s National day here, I have shortlisted things you will need on this day, or to prepare this day. If you don’t know what is happening on the 17th of May, you can check online, many articles talk about it. For a short reminder, the 17th of May in Norway isa celebration of the day when the Norwegian Constitution was signed on the 17th of May 1814. It is a a day largely celebrated in Norway and abroad, and is a holiday where people usually put on their best dress or their bunad, eat a brunch with friends and family and walk around town with a beer in one hand, a pølse in another.

Here is a “husk” (“remember” in Norwegian) list of all the things you’ll need for a successful Norwegian 17th of May:

  • Norwegian flags of different sizes: a small one to pin on your shirt, a bigger flag to raise in the streets, an even bigger one to put on your house. Paper version for the napkins on the 17. mai frokost. even smaller version to throw in the air when outside taking a picture of you in your bunad in the sun.
  •  A clean bunad or alternative nice looking clothes ideally either red, blue or white. Toxic products to clean the silver on your bunad. Uncomfortable shoes to complain later about your sour feet.
  • Alcohol. Clearly, we all need a drink to celebrate the 17th of May. Now the tricky part is the quantity you will need. Here is a typical Norwegian exercise for you which we were all confronted to this year as the 17th May was a Tuesday: Knowing that Vinmonopolet (State-controlled alcohol shop) is not open on the Saturday before a long week end. That supermarkets that sell beer only do so until 3pm on the last open day before a long week end. That the 17th of May was a Tuesday this year, preceded by another bank holiday (2nd Pentecost), preceded by a week end. What time on which day is your last chance to 1- buy alcohol with an alcohol degree above 4% such as champagne and 2- buy alcohol with lower percentage such as beer? Answer is: queue like all the others on the Friday coming home from work, before Vinmonopolet closes at 3pm, and try to buy as much as you can knowing all you will need for all these bank holidays + barbeque in the sun + 17th of May frokost. Last chance is Saturday before 3pm in a regular supermarket (but that shelf is usually empty by the time you get there, only the non-alcoholic beer remains).
  • The answer to the quantity is therefore: all you can get your hands on. It will never be enough anyway. To know what to expect from a drunk Norwegian read this.
  • A mask (for yourself) and pepperspray (for the others in front of you in the queue in Vinmonopolet). You gotta do what you gotta do to get this queue smaller and make sure some alcohol is left on the shelves. A nicer version is to post free kanelboller at the entrance of another shop so that people go there first and you can go right in Vinmonopolet and get all the alcohol you need before these bastards empty the shop. Or hang a sign “80% sale on all Norønna clothing” on the sports shop in front of Vinmonopolet.
  • Lots of eggs, butter, sugar, kremfløte, milk, flour and anything to make or colour a cake (blueberries, raspberries and strawberries for example). And salmon for the brunch, and cheese, and anything you’ll need to feed your friends before they go in town.
  • Knowing that you went shopping one hour before the last supermarket near your home closed before the long week end, you will of course forget something on the lists of necessary items to cook all the things you were supposed to make. So you will need the address of the nearest “søndagsåpent” shop near you. Note that you might need a car to get there, and that you won’t be the only one to have forgotten to buy something so it will be empty for exactly the thing you need: for eks. baking chocolate.
  • Sausages and lomper, lots of them. Ice cream, even more (you can also buy those in the street). A propos pølser and iskrem, you might want to have some sanitzer knowing you or your kid might vomit because of too much bad food. (It is okay to eat as much as anything you want on that day, strangely enough most people don’t choose to eat too much of spinach and asparagus but more of sausages and ice cream and beer). You might also need that to clean your hands after having to pee behind a bush or in a street close to the park where your friends are sitting because you know, too much coffee (yeah right, it’s the coffee).
  • Coffee. Lots of coffee. To wake up on the morning of the 17th of May brunch from your hungover from the 16th of May, or because you had to wake up early to bring your kids to the barnetoget. Or to stand the parents of the other kids on this boring dugnad you have to attend at your kid’s school. Later in the day to stay awake, later in the day because you finished eating and are having some cake and it is so koselig here sitting in this park with your friends, etc.
  • Even more strawberries for the champagne, and for “pynting” of anything from the table to the cakes served on the traditional “17th of may brunch”.
  • A television, to watch NRK with all the different communities in Norway celebrating the 17th of May, as well as all the countries in the world where there are Norwegians celebrating. And to laugh at all of those in Norway who have worst weather than where you are.
  • Skis, especially if you are celebrating the 17th of May on Galdøppingen (highest mountain in Norway). Today on NRK they showed pictures of those guys celebrating the National Day in the middle of a snow storm. In the middle of May…and they call it Spring.
  • Woollen underwear. And sunglasses. And an umbrella. And sunscreen. And a dune jacket. And basically anything that can prepare you for 5 changes of seasons in one day, as it often happens in this country and its unpredictable weather.
  • A good memory, to remember what weather we had every 17th of May every year, especially which year it snowed, to have a topic of conversation with all of those whom never met at the 17th May frokost you are invited to, or at that dugnad with other parents boring the daylight out of you. Note that different people have different 17th of May experiences. Some are young and free and drinking. Others have children and have to sell cakes and prepare their kids to go to musikkorps and cannot drink that much alcohol because of the amount of kids around. Nobody said it was all easy.
  • A lot of battery on your phone to take pictures of yourself next to a Norwegian flag. Of yourself with your friends with the Norwegian flag. Of yourself with your dog and the Norwegian flag. Just like the whole damn country, flooding Facebook with red, white and blue (I don’t blame you, I do the same). Also to take pictures of the Royal family waving at you if you are in Oslo. Of the different bunads. Of Kenyan people dancing and stealing the show in the “17. mai toget”. Of immigrants who dare wave another flag than the Norwegian flag.
  • Even more battery on your phone, to call all your friends and pretend to try to meet them where they are. And never do. Because you are too lazy. Because you are too drunk. Or they are too drunk. Or you fell asleep… or your battery died.
  • Condoms. Like in every event involving alcohol in this country, things happen. Especially if (not like this year) the 17th of May is a Friday, hence right before a week end of more celebrations and possibilities of sleeping in.
  • Paracetamol. For tomorrow when you’ll have a headache but will have to go to work anyway with a 4 day hangover and a social jetlag.

What you won’t need:

  • Your business card. You are not working today, not networking, so relax and have a drink.
  • Your bad mood in general and in particular about debates as to whether Norway is too patriotic, too nationalistic with its barnetog, using its flag too much on the 17th of May etc. etc.
  • A book. You thought you would lie in the grass and read in peace? The whole town is having a party, that’s not going to be possible.
  • Your sloppy clothes (also see my article on the rules not to break on the 17th of May)
  • Your sports gear. We are having fun and forgetting about the peer pressure just for one day here, don’t come and train your abs in our face please.

In any case, Gratulerer med dagen, and good luck waking up for work tomorrow!



A Frog in the Fjord: One Year in Norway Book

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