A love letter to “17. mai”

On my way home from work the other day, I happened to be thinking about the secret little Italian restaurant that singlehandedly kept me sane while I was living in Cuba. I thought about how I wish I could tell that restaurant how awesome it was, and how many good memories I have from that place. If I could, I’d like to tell the whole word how awesome that place is.

Silly me! I have a blog now! I can actually “tell the world” about awesome things that deserve to be celebrated, however insignificant they may seem to some in the larger scale of things.

So in true Happy Camper spirit, I’ve decided that I’ll be posting weekly love letters 🙂  They could be about anything really, anything that made me happy at some point (and most likely still does). My intention is to shine a big, bright spotlight on the good things in life, and hopefully have a laugh every now and then in the process of doing so.

Since I’m heading into my last month before packing up and moving abroad again, it’s only polite I dedicate a few love letters this month to… Norway.

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’17. mai’ is Norway’s national day. On that day in 1814 our declaration of independence was signed, and ever since it has been a day of huge celebrations and longstanding traditions. Trust me on this, you can be practically anywhere in the world and there will be some sort of celebration you can attend on May 17th as long as there is a trace of Norwegians within a 20-mile radius.

Since the beginning it has been a day dedicated to the kids, and the good news is that everyone lets their inner child roam free on 17. mai. Ever wanted to see grown men jump around with their feet stuck in potato sacks, fully dressed in suits? Or how about your mother racing her kids on stilts? This is your day, then.

17. mai collage

Things we do on 17. mai: 
+ It is the one day a year when you get to eat as many ice creams as you want. Literally, however many you want. Doesn’t matter if you’re 5 or 75 years old.
+ We have marching bands (“korps”, as they are called in Norway) leading parades all over the country
+ We watch the enormous children’s parade in downtown Oslo which marches up to the palace to see our royal family
+ We wave at King Harald and convince ourselves that he waved back at us, specifically
+ We dress up in “bunad”, our national costume
+ We play all sorts of outdoor games
+ We eat freshly caught shrimp and lots and lots of cake
+ We get blisters on our feet from walking around all day in new shoes
+ We always expect sunshine, but are never surprised when it inevitably rains
+… and I have to say: it’s probably the only holiday where  adults actually respect that it is a day for the kids, so the alcohol consumption is held to a minimum. I wish we had the same kind of respect for our kids during Christmas and Easter, but we don’t and that’s just the sad truth.

I have this memory of being probably 5 or 6 years old and sitting on my mom’s lap as she was putting on my pajamas and getting me ready for bed. And I was bawling my eyes out and wailing like a sea lion because “it’ll be a WHOLE YEAR until the next 17.mai..!!!” My world had fallen apart the moment I realized I would only have that kind of fun once a year. And even as you grow up, 17. mai never loses its magic charm.

I celebrated our independence day on Crete two years in a row, and had the privilege of being a part of a team that organised a celebration for all the kids who were there on vacation. How do you throw a successful 17. mai party on Crete? Four easy steps:
1) You put the guests on a bus and drive them far up in the mountains because Norwegians are most comfortable 1000 meters above sea level.
2) You get ice cream. Lots and lots of ice cream.
3) You win over the children with face-painting. Then the parents will want to have their faces painted too (yes, really) and before you know it, Bob’s your uncle.
4) You stand up, clink your glass, and say: “Well, guys, we beat the Swedes in the cross-country skiing World Cup this year too!” Cheers and hugs all around.

17. mai collage kreta

17. mai, I love you for never failing to bring us all together, wherever we are in the world. Thanks for all the tummy aches from eating all that – you guessed it – ice cream.  Thanks for all the hugs and cheers and smiles. Thanks for all the singing and waving and shouting. Thanks for always reminding us that no matter how different we might feel from one another the rest of the year, on this one day we are all one happy family.

Xx Christine

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