Gratulerer med dagen – Norway’s Constitution Day | Polarjournal
The Vikings are considered Norway’s people. But findings show that the Nordland had been settled much earlier by seal and reindeer hunters. Picture: Stefan Leimer

Norway, the country high in the north, attracts with nature and a long history. But the latter was long dominated by Denmark and by Sweden. This means that this country also did not have its own constitution for a long time. Stefan Leimer, who has found his new home in northern Norway, explains how this important document found its way to the far north.

In the 9th century, the Viking chieftain Ottar sailed around the North Cape and along the Norwegian coast to the White Sea. Later Ottar made a journey to England to report on his voyage to King Alfred the Great. During this visit, the tribal leader Ottar is said to have been the first to speak of “Nor-weg”, the home of the Northmen. But finds of Stone Age houses show that more than 10,000 years ago people had already inhabited Norway and lived from seal and reindeer hunting.

Norway’s wild rugged coastline and its numerous rivers flowing into the fjords were ideal for the Vikings to settle the country. For with their longboats they could reach far inland. Picture: Stefan Leimer

In the centuries after Christ’s birth, today’s Norway consisted of a patchwork of small kingdoms. The era of the Vikings began in the 800s AD. With their flat ships, which were equipped with oars and sails, they sailed the coastal waters and rivers of Europe and plundered everything they encountered on their way. Harald Schoenhaar was the first to temporarily unify the country in the 10th century. But it was to take several centuries before Norway became independent.

For centuries, Denmark shaped life in Norway. The red and white in the flag is a reminder of this. In 1814 the country broke away from Denmark and gave itself its first own constitution. Picture: Stefan Leimer

In the Napoleonic campaigns, France took Denmark to war and so, after defeat by Britain and Sweden in 1814, was forced to withdraw from Norway. The Norwegians benefited from the new political situation and gave themselves their own constitution for the first time on May 17, 1814. Since then, although May 17 has been regarded as so-called grunnlovsdag, within a few months they were forced into a new alliance, now with Sweden. It was not until 1905 that the union with Sweden was dissolved. The Norwegian people voted with a large majority for the independence of Norway and the parliament elected the Danish prince Karl of Denmark as the new king Håkon VII.

Norway is a young nation, but it has been able to preserve its own traditions relatively well, despite foreign rule. Norwegians are also very proud of this. Picture: Stefan Leimer

So on May 17, Norway celebrates its first constitution from 1814 and its liberation from 400 years of Danish rule. One wishes “gratulerer med dagen”, everywhere red, white and blue national flags are hoisted and people parade through the streets in their traditional costumes. Since children are given special attention on this 17th of May, it is also called barnas dag – children’s day.

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