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"Ja vi elsker", National Anthem of Norway

Sure, it always rains in Bergen. The morning of May 17 was cold and gray, but it did not deter anyone from wearing their bunad, the norsk traditional dress, when they went to downtown Bergen to celebrate "Syttende Mai", the day when the Constitution of 1814 was signed at Eidsvold. "Syttende Mai" is also known as the nasjonaldag, the biggest national holiday in Norway; not June 7 when Norway got its independence from Sweden.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Denmark-Norway was on the wrong side of the Napoleonic Wars and the Allies dissolved the union, placing Norway under the Swedish crown. Rather than fight a war with Sweden, the Norwegians assembled their wisest men at Eidsvold to draft the Constitution. This Constitutional Assembly was a cross-section of norsk society, the youngest member of which was a lieutenant in the army who was known for his bright intellect. Sweden was presented with a fait accompli, and had no choice but to accept the Constitution of 1814 that the people of Norway approved in a national refrendum. Norway was under the Swedish Crown but the Constitution gave the country a measure of autonomy, e.g., have its own Parliament.

For Nowegians, political exercise does not begin at age 18. Children are practically weaned into political life at a very young age. As the picture above shows, it is not uncommon for Norwegians to celebrate "Syttende Mai" as a family. Parents and children walk in the parade, holding their flag and wearing the bunad with pride and honor.

 

It could even be said that Norwegian babies breathe the very air of freedom and the fierce love of country when their parents bring them along to the "Syttende Mai" parade.

Schoolchildren join the parade, not a single one of them breaking the line when the rain began pouring again.

Not everyone can join the parade. One must be a member of an organization, association, or club; not just for purposes of order but as a clear indication of the tradition of samarbeid (cooperation). One can be as individualistic and self-sufficient as he wishes, but the individualism has to work within the social framework — the benefit of the whole society, the nation.

In 1860, the supremacy of the Storting (Norwegian Parliament) over the reigning Swedish monarch was put to a severe test. War between Norway and Sweden became an imminent possibility. Young men were trained to use guns, the rifle associations giving an innocently covert umbrella. Cool heads prevailed. Eventually the supremacy of Parliament was firmly established, with the immortal words of then Prime Minster Johan Sverdrup, "All makt i denne sal" (All power in this hall). More significant for students of democratic models, the Storting represents the will of the people who elected the members of Parliament, not as individual personalities but as representatives of the political parties that reflect their social, economic, and political value system.