17th of May is the national day of Norway, and as with other countries “national day” this is a day for joy and celebration.
17th May (syttende mai in Norwegian) is also known as Norwegian Constitution Day and, as the name suggests, it celebrates the signing of the Norwegian constitution in 1814, after nearly 300 years of union with Denmark.
But, what should you wear on this day? Normal, everyday clothes? A smoking jacket? A gala dress or a “white tie”? Hmm, maybe try something in between?
Norwegian traditional costumes You will see many people wearing “bunad”, the traditional Norwegian fest-outfit. It’s most common for women since many of them get one when they are 14/15 (at the “confirmation”), while the boys usually wear a normal suit then. The “bunad” is always made so it can be “re-fitted”, which results to that adult women are actually using the same bunad as they did when they were 14/15. But, a bunad is very pricey (NOK 20.000-30.000), so unless you get one for your confirmation not too many people buy one later in their life => more women than men wearing bunad when adults. But, not all Norwegians have a bunad, and certainly expats are not expected to go and buy one.
So what should you wear? The most important thing is that “you show that you have put on something a bit nice, showing that you know and respect the day”. So, if you simply don’t have anything, you can get away with just a white shirt and a tie (and maybe try to avoid denim/Levis-jeans, if possible...). But then it is also smart to put on some cheap extra “17th of May” ribbons, just to look a bit extra “17th of May”- Like a red & white & blue ‘flag-ribbon” that you place on your left chest-area.
But, if you have something a bit nice to wear, then this is a good day to put it on. Most people will wear something quite nice – Like a classic suit for the men (often with a red tie), and a classical ‘skirt/dress’-thing for the ladies, often in white/bright colours. But there is no strict rules here, all colours work. The point is to look nice, but not over-dressed (!). Just show that you know that this is not a “standard everyday”, but a special day where we put on something a bit nicer than on a standard Monday. And don’t worry or stress about the clothes, nothing is "right or wrong", as long as is shows that you have tried a bit J
International traditional costumes. What also is popular is when people from other countries dress up in their own traditional outfits. Most countries have traditional outfits. If you have one of those, 17th of May is a perfect opportunity to wear it.
Ribbons and Pins: There are some different kinds of ribbons and pins many people like to use on 17th of May. Most common is a flag and/or a flag-ribbon. They usually cost between NOK 15 and 50, depending on what you want and are made in the national colours (red, white and blue). Putting on one of these immediately make you a “17th of May-celebration” participant.
Flags: Many Norwegians like to walk around with a Norwegian flag on the 17th of May, and this is especially true if you plan to walk in the parade. And if you have children who are going to walk in the parade, it’s smart to equip them with a flag. Almost all children have a flag when walking in the parade. So, in order not to be “the only one without a flag”, your child would most likely appreciate that also he/she has a flag.
Now you are ready for 17th of May. Just remember: Look nice, but not too overdressed