The Case for the Independent Norwegian

May 17, 2011 § Leave a comment

My father's old flag

If any stray Norwegians around you are acting uppity today, it’s with good reason. The roots to the “gamle landet” (old country) are pulling strongly today, the seventeenth of May. No matter what  little Norwegian blood courses through one’s veins, that’s enough of an excuse to celebrate the heritage of their fathers, grandfathers or farther fathers.

We Norwegian-Americans … the pack of us that I grew up with who came to America in the fifties … always called it Norwegian Independence Day. And acted accordingly. (I have a theory about that: the Norwegians who came to America were the independent ones, the ones with pioneer spirit, who left all to brave the new world. The rest stayed in Norway.)

Technically the 17th of May is Norway’s Constitution Day, commemorating the Day in 1814 When Norway Got Their Own Constitution. There is the small matter that the Swedes were still ruling the country in 1814, a fact that wasn’t taken care of until 1905. So celebrations were frowned upon by Swedish scowls, and kingly bans. Probably the birth of all those Norwegian vs. Swedish jokes came into being during that interval and have lingered to our amusement and amazement, depending on if you are Norwegian or Swedish.

But no one is frowning now as Norwegian-Americans in Stougton, WI, Chicago, Minnesota and especially Ballard in Seattle celebrate with parades, flag waving, speeches, music, lefse, sour cream porridge and of course, cake and coffee. (Parade starts at 6 in Ballard.)

So if you hear stray snatches of  the lyric “Ja, vi elsker dette landet,” (“Yes, We Love This Land”) today, or see Norwegians dressed in bunads (national costumes) shouting “Hip, hip hurra”, or catch them acting uppity and independent, it’s all for a good cause … commemorating our Norwegian heritage.

Me? I’ve got my father’s ancient Norwegian flag flying, I’m headed for the parade in Ballard with my resident Swede, and I’m no more independent than usual.

copyright 2011

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