Sunday, May 17, 2015

Syttende Mai and a bit of Norwegian history

Last evening's Prairie Home Companion with Garrison Keillor talking about Syttende Mai (and singing some traditional Norwegian songs) prompted me to do some research on this holiday...and brush up on some essential Norwegian history...

Today is the 17th of May, a national holiday in Norway.  It is Nasjonaldagen (National Day) or Grunnlovsdagen (Constitution Day). In 1814 on this day Norway declared itself an independent kingdom to avoid being given to Sweden by Denmark after Denmark-Norway's defeat in the Napoleanic Wars.   (The Norwegian provinces of Iceland, Greenland and the Faroes remained with Denmark).  There was terrible poverty and mass starvation as a result of this defeat. 

 In of course the expected political ironies, Norway actually WAS given to Sweden.  but the opportunity presented itself for the country to attempt to declare a level of independence.  Norway kept its liberal constitution and institutions with exception of the foreign service. Because of the Napoleonic Wars, economic development in Norway was slow until around 1830..(making immigration to the US in the 19th century very tempting). Because of the lack of independence, there was a rise in Norwegian romantic nationalism. 

Norway's true independence  did not actually happen until June 7, 1905, when Prince Carl of Denmark was named King of Norway and called himself Haakon VII. 

Coincidentally, WWII ended 9 days before Syttende Mai in 1945, adding more meaning to independence at this time of May! (As we know, Norway was occupied by the Nazi's during WWII).   As the website for the Vesterheim Museum in Decorah Iowa suggests, it is a great day to celebrate freedom all around!

Here is an old photo taken by Paul Stang in the early 1900's of a Syttende Mai celebration in Stongfjorden


Mom and I visited Norway and a few other places  around Scandinavia in 2002 

Here's a postcard that I picked up of a little one and her castle wheel, dated 1904, the distaff suggests that she is spinning, or pretending to spin... flax



We went to the Norsk Folkemuseum, the Norwegian Museum of Cultural History at Bygdøy in Oslo, and saw dancers in traditional costumes, some of which people wore today!

The women are wearing Bunad, here's a definition from Wikipedia

"Bunad (Norwegian plural: bunader) is a Norwegian umbrella term encompassing, in its broadest sense, a range of both traditional rural clothes (mostly dating to the 19th and 18th centuries) as well as modern 20th-century folk costumes. In its narrow sense the word bunad refers only to clothes designed in the early 20th century that are loosely based on traditional costumes. The word bunad in itself is a 20th-century invention.
The bunad movement has its root in 19th-century national romanticism, which included an interest for traditional folk costumes not only in Norway, but also in neighbouring countries such as Denmark and notably Germany. However, in Norway national romanticist ideas had a more lasting impact, as seen in the use of folk inspired costumes"




Finally, we took a boat down Sognefjord, here I am at Kvikne's resort



King Harald and Queen Sonja just happened to be visiting that day, here you see Harald waving...yes...to me!  He is the Grandson of Haakon VII.


 And here I am outside of Bergen at the tomb of Edvard Grieg and his wife, I am wearing a Dale sweater purchased in Norway...




(Thanks as usual to wikipedia...yes, I send them a donation yearly!)

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