The most Norwegian of all days

Delightful Chatter - Norway 17 May

Two good friends parading together

Today is May 17th and that is not just an ordinary day in Norway. In 1814, on this day, our constitution was written up and signed. A little later it was rewritten a little to suit the union we joined with Sweden, but by and large it was significant to Norway’s later split with Sweden and the nation’s independence. This days has been celebrated extensively every year since, and this year, for the 200th time. We call the day simply ‘syttende mai’ which translates to ‘the 17th of May’, and if anyone asks we say it’s our national day, ‘nasjonaldagen’.

I really enjoy this day. It’s always been a tradition, but after the rose parades of 2011, I wrote about them here and here, I’ve learned to appreciated this day a lot more. And also now that I have children who participate I have been forced to look at it all from a different angle which has also improved how I see this day.

Delightful Chatter - Norway 17 May

She doesn’t remember much from her first 17 May celebration, but this year she has learned to shout ‘hurrah’ and wave her flag

The day starts with salutations being made. I’ve never really checked just how early this is done, but I’ve always considered extremely early. The salutations are often cannons being fired or something similar. These are often followed by early rounds of parading brassbands, I’ve often slept through these too. Then, sometime between 8 and 9 in the morning all school children, and younger children, gather to parade. The children group up or line up with their class, their kindergarten or with their brass/marching band to parade the streets for about an hour. Where I lived before it was always the head of the police who fronted the parade, where we live now it’s a fire truck. Everyone is dressed up, men in suits, women in dresses, and a whole lot, maybe even the majority is dressed in their ‘bunads’.

Delightful Chatter - Norway 17 May

Details of my bunad

The ‘bunad’ is Norway’s national costume, and they are different depending on where you’re from. It’s similar in idea, but not in style, to the tartans of Scotland. The embroideries of many of the ‘bunads’ can be traced back to specific farms where the patterns are based on family heirlooms with rose-paintings on or floral patterns on items found in the vicinity or made by residents of the farms. I got mine for my confirmation (a Evangelical Lutheran tradition to celebrate your transition into adulthood – I’ll get back to that in a later post) when I was fifteen. My ‘farmor’ (my father’s mother) embroidered mine and I cherish it more every time I wear it. It really is special to me.

Norwegians are seen as cold and unfriendly, at least through an untrained eye. And in this part of the world, street parades are not very common. And that it is not combined with alcohol can also seem shocking if you’ve spent some time in Norway.  But the 17ht of May is a day for the children. It is mostly the children who parade while the parents cheer as the parade passes. After the parade everybody gather up at school or in the town square, or in a similar area,  there are a few speeches and then activities for the children.

Delightful Chatter - Norway 17 May

Tasty, but a little puncture, a Pavlova cake in the correct colours – red, white and blue

The tradition in our family is to join the parade in the morning. When I was younger I went with my school, now I go with my children. We spend some time participating in the post-parade activities before we go home and eat ‘lapskaus’ (recipe here). When I was younger it was always ‘farmor’ and ‘farfar’ (my father’s mother and father) who made the lapskaus and they had all children and grandchildren over to eat. Now it is my parents (my children’s ‘mormor’ and ‘morfar’) who visit us. Often we also have friends over and there’s usually cake. It’s a good day.

A general rule is also that children are allowed about as many ice-creams as they can today, or the same number of ice-creams as their age. My five-year-old is allowed five ice-creams (poor boy only had two today – he’s still not aware of this rule).


Norwegian television and proper piip-shows

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Norway still has an official state-run television channel, Norsk RikskringKasting, the NRK and the last years they have received much attention due to their new and creative reality shows. Please do not think of idiots locked in a house, barely-known celebrities dancing, or blood, sweat, and tears combined with alcohol and broken hearts; I said new and creative! Oh no, they give real in reality a new meaning, or proper meaning. 

NRK’s first reality show was about trains. They filmed and showed the train journey from Bergen, on the West coast of Norway, to our capital, Oslo, in the East. Every minute of the journey was broadcasted. The documentary (or reality show) can be seen here. The second show was Hurtigruta. Hurtigruta is a ferry/small cruise that travels from Bergen to Kirkenes. Covering much of Norway’s coast. The journey was broadcates live, every single minute of it, from start to finish. The show can be seen here

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Bergensbanen, minute by minute


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Hurtigruta, just after leaving Bergen

Following a little later was a four-hour show on knitting, see that here. Yes, we Norwegians knit. Well, I don’t. I can’t knit to save my life. I’ve learned to crochet, see here, but knitting, well, maybe after I retire. 

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Anyhow, the new thing now is birds. A proper piip-show. As birds is Norway say pip, or piip (you would write peep for the same sound). Birds here don’t tweet, instragram is more popular. A bird-feeding station is decorated to look like an Oslo coffee-house (not the dutch kind) with barstools, coffeemakers, decorations, and all. A webcam has been set up and now broadcast the birds 24/7. During this time you can also talk to ornithologists and ask them questions. The piip-show will go on for three months. And, you can see it here.

All photos are from




Norwegian Cuisine: Taco Spice Mix

Delightful chatter - Taco Spice Mix

One of Norway’s most popular dishes is taco. Yes, very logical and oh so Scandinavian, but we still love it. Many Norwegians eat taco once a week and Friday night seems to be the days where most of us devour our tacos. Well, to be honest, to call it taco might be seriously offensive to those who really know what taco really is, or can be, but it is easily pronounced, easily made, and totally tasty!

Many Norwegians eat the processed versions you find in the store: salsa in a jar, quacamole in a tin, and taco spice mix out of a paper bag. Of course these do not taste like or contain the same as the real deal, but many can’t look past the quick fix. A few years ago I came across a recipe for a mix-yourself-taco-spice-mix, I tried it and have never after gone back to the one-portion bag from the store. This is better in so many ways: it tastes better, it’s cheaper and you control the amount of salt you use. It takes you ten minutes to make the first time, and then your set for several Friday-night-tacos to come.

(! Tablespoons)
3 T chilli powder
1,5-2 T sea salt
2 T cumin
2 T powdered paprika

(! teaspoons)
2,5 t garlic powder
2,5 t crushed chilli flakes2,5 t dried oregano
1-2 t cayenne pepperDelightful chatter - Taco Spice Mix

Norwegians normally use mince meat, and for 400 grams I use one large tablespoon of spice-mix. I also toss in a small teaspoon in salsa and guacamole. The mix is, of course, also perfect for mexican inspired soups or casseroles.

Please let me know if you try!


Today is the third Sunday of advent, and I am sorry it had to become the third before I was to tell you about this tradition. In Norway we count down the four Sundays before yule. The tradition is based around the lighting of four purple candles. One candle is lit every Sunday. Usually the lighting involves a small song or a short poem, gløgg, gingerbread cookies and clementines. It’s not a tradition that gets a lot of attention outside the home, but the four purple candles can be seen in schools, kindergartens, churches, TV.