KMC Norwegians celebrate Norway’s national day

Christine June
U.S. Army Garrison Kaiserslautern

***image1***The 17th of May is Norway’s national day, and the country and its citizens celebrate no matter where they are on this day, honoring the creation of their constitution on May 17, 1814.

Take, for example, the Norwegian families living in the KMC and Heidelberg. They  donned their traditional costumes, or bunad, and waved their nation’s flags to celebrate May 17 at the Turm Hotel in Potzberg, about 20 minutes from Kaiserslautern.

“In Norway, I think it’s a little special that this is a day we celebrate our independence and we do that together with all of our children,” said Brig. Gen. Finn K. Hannestad, Air Component Command Headquarters deputy chief of staff operations. “So, it’s a children’s day in Norway.”

Norwegians celebrate the 17th of May or syttende mai (meaning May 17) as their independence, similar to America’s Fourth of July, even though Norway was militarily forced into a personal union with Sweden until June 7,
1905. But it’s May 17, 1814, when Norway took the opportunity to declare her independence, adopting a constitution based on American and French models.

***image2***“And, the celebration in Norway is huge – really huge,” said General Hannestad, the senior Norwegian military officer in the KMC. “That’s why it’s natural to bring it with us wherever we are so you’ll find wherever there’s a Norwegian contingent, you will find a 17th of May celebration.”

Officially called the Norwegian Constitution Day, celebrations throughout Norway include children’s processions as they wave national flags and make a lot of noise shouting “Hoorah!,” signing, blowing whistles and shaking rattles.
There can also be parades for the public, where every citizen is welcome to join in, often wearing their traditional bunad from their Rogalano or region.
There are 19 regions in Norway, and for some, it can be a magnificent sight to see so many national costumes at once. Most of the regions were represented at this year’s local event with about 16 Norwegian families from the KMC and one from Heidelberg making the most of the 17th of May celebrations in Germany.

“This is a good opportunity to come up here and meet the other Norwegian families because in Heidelberg there are only four Norwegian families and no one else (in Heidelberg) knows about the 17th of May – our national day,” said Anne Aasen, wife of Maj. Stein Garang, the Allied Land Component military assistant to the commander.