It´s evening, soon 9 pm. Kids gone to bed. Quiet here in my sofa corner.
It´s the 17. of May and I´m a Norwegian living in Denmark.
This morning I turned on the Norwegian tv channel that I have in my cable deal.
I watch this channel maybe 5 times a year or so. On the 17.of May it is vital I have that channel. As they send this live programme, moving from place to place around Norway, and also visiting places all over the world, where Norwegians gather today to celebrate their national day. To sing and cheer Hurray for Norway.
Norway´s constitution day. The day we became our own independent country, in 1905. Not just a colony under Denmark, then Sweden, then Denmark…
It is not a day of military marching bands. No. It is a day where all school children march in the streets singing and playing instruments. And everyone else stands on the pavements, cheering the children on…
It is the children´s day. Because they are the future of our nation.
Everybody has the day off. Everybody gets up early, and puts on their best clothes. Many wear national costumes, very expensive, traditional dresses and suits, which looks different from region to region of the long coasted country…
After the parade of the children, people go home and have lunch with family or friends. Nothing fancy. Hot dogs, milk shakes. Maybe smoked salmon and hams. Easy food. Kids get ice cream, almost as many as they want. Uncles and aunts and grandparents stick the kids some money, which they are encouraged to spend on silly things in kiosks. For once.
After lunch, there are other parades downtown, where businesses and ngos make floats and joke around. College students as well. Adult fun. And then people with kids go to their local school yards and there´s games and competitions. Stilt race, for example. And racing with a potato on a spoon…
Around 7 pm or so, it is over. Kids and adults are knackered, and getting the national costumes off is a great relief. Sore feet. Sugar shocks. Exhaustion.
All go to bed, ready for a new day at work or school on the 18.
When I was little, it was a day as big as xmas eve. In school we rehearsed marching and singing the national hymns for weeks, leading up to it.
I have lived in Denmark for 10 years now. Only once have I spent a 17.of May in Norway in this decade.It has been relaxing not to have to do all this as a mother, getting costumes ready for three kids… but it also makes me sad that they don´t know the feeling connected to this day. Shouting out the name of one´s school together, ending each sentence about it, with a loud HURRAAAYYYY…… waving the flag….
Feeling moved and proud of one´s country, one´s town, one´s school….. Feeling connected, belonging in a group, joined together…
Celebrating freedom. Of expression, of movement. Freedom from fear. Freedom to expect to be treated as an equal, no matter what sexual preference, gender, colour or religion one belongs to.
Celebrating the all inclusive community of every individual who shares the same homeland. We who live here. Who make Norway together, day by day, by being who we are and doing what we do.
National romanticism. Is a beautiful thing. It is love. Appreciation.
Nationalism is the opposite. Exclusive. Fearful. All about the division into “us” and “them”. “You don´t belong here in our group!” (And hence you are inferior to us). Weird stuff.
It´s interesting. How patriotism can be so… warm and embracing… or it can be cold and aggressively pushing against imagined enemies…
Well. When I wave the Norwegian flag, it is with joy, with pride and without feeling it is against anyone. I wish every person could feel peaceful joy waving the flag of their country of origin.
In Norway, our immigrants participate same as everyone. All citizens alike, all school children, one community. Norway can be your homeland to cherish and enjoy, it doesn´t have to be your country of origin to be your home country.
I heard them say on tv this morning that some immigrants had said that they love Norwegians the most on the 17.of May, because that is the one day people show happy emotions in public, and wear colourful clothes, and greet everyone in the streets!
There´s truth to that. Norwegians are too reserved normally.
Here in my home today, we´ve watched 17.-May on tv, and we had kebabs for dinner, and of course ice cream. That was that. I have spent some time on social media, saying happy birthday to family and friends, as we do on this our country´s birthday.
I´ve felt a bit down, periodically. Then I´ve sung a couple of my favourite 17.-May-songs, and felt a bit better.
I miss my homeland today. I feel Norwegian, to the roots of my heart. And this emotion is not easily translated to those who haven´t grown up in Norway or at least been present on the 17.of May there…
Norway, I salute you.
Freedom – Equality – Solidarity.
The values of the French revolution, really.
I´ll finish by sharing the insight I heard the other day…
That the cross, which to me just symbolizes and instrument of torture, sad to say…
That it actually (can) stand(s) for two crossing axes. One from above to below (cosmos to earth), the other, horizontal axes, standing for how we reach out to eachother, socially.
So the vertical; connecting to the supernatural.
The horizontal; connecting to human community.
In buddhist terminology the concepts are Dharma and Sangha. ? Not sure…
Four directions, or. Longtitude and latitude. The two directions of our mother earth.
Meaning is in the eye of the interpreter.
Such is the nature of freedom.