The 17th of May is a big day for Norwegians as it marks the signing of the Norwegian constitution and thus their declaration to be an independent kingdom from Sweden. Growing up in Washington state, we rarely missed a Syttende Mai parade in the most Norwegian of all cities; Ballard. It was one of the few times each year that I wasn’t mortified to be seen in public wearing my bunad mainly because everyone else was dressed like me. Upon moving away from home, my patriotic celebrations were put on hiatus due to geographical difficulties. As it turns out, there aren’t many Scandinavians in Arizona and North Carolina. Vikings don’t do well in heat – it doesn’t mesh with their fur-loving fashion sense.
Now that we’re abroad and consequently much closer to the motherland, I’ve been able to resume my annual festivities. The 17th happened to fall on a Saturday this year and as luck would have it, this was also the 200th anniversary of the big day. While I am still hoping to experience Nasjonaldagen in Norway at some point, the London celebration was a close second. And apparently, it was the largest gathering outside of Oslo in honor of the bicentennial.
Lena finally fit into her hand-me-down folk costume (there are photos somewhere of me and my cousins wearing it as children) and I proceeded to take a million photos nearly exploding from the cuteness. And I conned Jason into wearing red, white and blue with me; dubbing him an honorary Norwegian for being able to put up with my antics. The man is a saint.
We traveled to Southwark park while Lena chanted, “Hipp! Hipp! Hurra!” along with her fellow Norwegians. Everywhere I looked, there were bunads, Norwegian flags, and people who looked like me. Finally! My people! As I felt myself grinning like an idiot, I was hit with the sobering realization that I had fully morphed into my mother.
We spent the morning listening to folk music, watching the halling dancers and eating Norwegian food. Nearly everyone was speaking Norwegian; so much so that Jason refused to order anything as he was worried he’d be expected to say something. He tried his first pølse med lompe – a sausage wrapped in lefse or the Norwegian version of a hot dog. And we let Lena enjoy some Laban Seigmenn – I nearly overdosed on these little sugar men while living in Norway; they’re that delicious.
The day ended with a parade through the park lead by the children’s groups from the local Norwegian school. After all the excitement, Lena passed out in her stroller and we headed to a nearby pub before traveling home. It was one of the best days I’ve had in awhile.