Sunday, May 17, 2009

Norwegian National Day

After a win at the Eurovision Song Contest last night, Norway was feeling ready to celebrate its National Day today on the 17th May.

In Stavanger, the day begins with a children's parade in which my family was involved. We were up early, even before the traditional loud bangers went off at 7 am to wake up the town. At 8 am we were ready to leave the house and hung up our flag on the flag pole outside as we left. The timing of flag display is supposed to be promptly adhered to: hung up at 8 am, taken down by 9 pm. Almost every house on our road was flying a flag outside by 8 am.

We drove to my daughter's school and met with a large crowd in the play yard. Everyone was smartly dressed or in traditional costume. We met a French friend from the Provencal region wearing his own traditional costume: a black beret, a patterned silk shirt and a black jacket.

By 9.30 we were walking through the town alongside our chldren. Children of all ages and from all around Stavanger took part, many dressed in costume. Others played in musical bands.

The streets were lined with onlookers, many of whom were wearing traditional costume. I was glad I had put on a tie, but still it didn't seem right that the folk in costumes were the ones watching us parade..

The costumes are distinctly different depending on which part of Norway the wearer's family comes from. The women wear long, heavy woolen skirts covered in embroidery and white embroidered shirts overlain by extravagant silver jewellery decorated with symbols. The men also dress up and look quite 19th Centuryish in knickerbocker-style trousers and court jackets, some with black felt top hats.

At the end of parade we had circled back to the school play yard. Everybody was eating polser (hot dogs) and cake or ice cream, building up energy for the following rounds of parades: firstly for the 'Russ parade' (for students about to take their final school exams), and then for the "folk parade" (for adults) due to begin around 4pm. A full day of flags, hot dogs and parades.

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