May 17, 1814 – The Constitution of Norway Was Signed – Happy Syttende Mai!

On this day in history, Norway adopted its constitution, which begins with the declaration:

The Kingdom of Norway is a free, independent, indivisible and inalienable Realm. Its form of government is a limited and hereditary monarchy.”


Norwegian Constitution Day is an official national holiday observed on May 17 each year not only in Norway, but throughout North America in communities with Norwegian-Americans, the members of whom call the holiday syttende mai (meaning May Seventeenth).

Stoughton, Wisconsin, for example, has a famous Syttende Mai festival every year that lasts three days. Activities include rosemaling demonstrations, “Viking Games,” a very popular 20 mile run, parade, Norwegian dancing, music, and lots of lefse, lutefisk (made from dried whitefish prepared with lye), and verdensbeste (“The Best Cake in the World”). (A fun novel about the Norwegians in America and their relationship with lutefisk is the book Kitchens of the Great Midwest by J. Ryan Stradal.)

Norway has a population of over 5.1 million people, with the capital located in Oslo, the third biggest city in Scandinavia after Stockholm and Copenhagen, with over 634,400 city inhabitants. The country is officially known as the Kingdom of Norway. [In Norwegian, Norway is Norge.]. Norway has a king and a queen – King Harald V and Queen Sonia. The royal palace is in Oslo which is the main residence of the Royal Family. King Harald is regarded, according to the UK Guardian, as a “good” king, in spite of the row that ensued when he married Sonia, the mere daughter of a “wood merchant”.

National Day Celebrations at Oslo Royal Palace

Norway has the largest glacier in Northern Europe (The Jostedalsbreen) and the longest road tunnel in the world (The Laerdal Road Tunnel), which stretches over fifteen miles. Since it takes the average driver 20 minutes to travel through the tunnel, special design features were added in order to prevent drivers from falling asleep.

The Laerdal Tunnel

Interestingly, in Norway you can only buy alcohol from stores called Vinmonopolet, a government-owned retailer that is the only company allowed to sell beverages containing an alcohol content higher than 4.75%. There are only one or two in each city, and none in the countryside towns. No alcohol is sold in shops and supermarkets on Sundays, public holidays and days when elections or referendums are held, nor is it legal for shops to sell alcohol on the 1st or 17th of May.

Nevertheless, binge drinking is said to be a popular activity in Norway. You can read more about research on Norway’s drinking culture here.



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