May 17: An explanation for non-Norwegians

Norwegian Constitution day today, an integral part of the annual productivity-dampening festival known as May. If you want to blend in with the natives, expect to wear your suit all day (including at 0800 flag hoisting at local school), eat ice cream and hot dogs (sold by brass-band parents, see below), and display a Norwegian flag prominently somewhere on your person.

image You will see brass bands of varying quality, women (and not a few men) wearing folk costumes, even more children carrying flags (upright in the morning, dragging along the pavement after lunch), and, should you go into Oslo or any medium-sized town, an increasing number of drunks (some of them still in folkloristic garb) towards dusk. Suffice is to say that "May 18" and "hangover" are synonyms in Norwegian, whether it is for the usual reason, or for lack of sleep and overexposure to plastic trumpets and sour, underage marching bands.

One excellent aspect, though: The almost complete absence of militaristic chest-beating – partly for tradition, partly for lack of chest. May 17th is a children’s celebration, by and large.

Enough of this, I need to, quite literally, hoist the flag. Man, it is early in the morning…

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