In Norway, today is National Independence Day, or Constitution Day, commemorating the introduction of constitutional government on 17 May 1814. The country had been transferred from Danish to Swedish control in January 1814. A limited and hereditary monarchy was introduced, whereby the king would exercise his authority through a government, while Parliament (Storting) would allocate monies and make laws.
The Norwegian constitution was the most modern in Europe at the time. Norway’s Constitution, which declared the country to be an independent nation, was signed on this day in 1814 at Eidsvoll, but Norway did not achieve full independence from Sweden until October 1905. And the links are still strong, as we see annually in the Eurovision Song Contest voting…. will England ever get in the top half of the table? Probably not, as no matter how good or bad our song is, we don’t have enough ‘political archenemies’ to give us 12 points. Oh good heavens – did you see the winning entry last weekend?
Anyway, back to Norway…. Today, colourful processions of children with their banners, flags and bands – not military parades – play the main role in the festivities. The day is celebrated with as much enthusiasm in Norwegian villages (albeit on a smaller scale) as in the capital city of Oslo, where tens of thousands line Karl Johans gate, Oslo’s main thoroughfare, every year to watch the parade.
The children’s parade in Oslo is the longest in Norway, and includes around 100 schools and marching bands. The route starts at Festningsplassen and Youngstorget, follows Karl Johans gate from Stortorvet to the Royal Palace, passing the Parliament on its way, and ends in front of City Hall.