“Gratulerer med dagen!”
This is what is being said today all over Norway! “Happy Constitution Day!” (Grunnlovsdagen!) or just “Syttendemai!” (17th of May)
The 17th of May is to Norway what the 4th of July is to us in the U.S.A. It is a day of national pride, cultural appreciation, parades and, of course, food. On this day you’ll see parades of children proudly waving the Norwegian flag, families and friends gathering to eat and enjoy eachother’s company, and festivities held across the country.
The center piece of syttende mai is the Norwegian flag. The flag itself is a creation that nods at Norway’s past unions with both Denmark and Sweden– The red with white cross acknowledges Norway’s union with Denmark from 1397 to 1814 and it’s union with Sweden from 1814 to 1905. This flag is only a little over 100 years old, but is already a big part of the Norwegian identity and is shared with pride especially on this day.
The date of ‘The 17th of May’ refers back to May 17 1814, when Norway was granted the right to have it’s own constitution after Denmark’s defeat during the Napoleonic Wars. It is essentially the day when Norway was considered its own country again, after centuries of domination by other countries. However, even after this time Norway was still not completely sovereign, as it then was transferred to Swedish rule. The 17th of May marked the beginning of it’s road to independence, however, and in the year 1905 Norway was finally free to be it’s own nation with it’s own constitution and royal family— and complete freedom to shape its own destiny for the first time since the 14th century.
To celebrate this day of national pride, Norwegians focus mainly on children by hosting parades all over the country and enjoying treats and desserts fit for summer celebrating. The focus on children began in the 19th century, with the idea being a focus on ‘the future of Norway.’ During the Nazi occupation of Norway from 1940-1945, Norwegians were forbidden to fly their flag or celebrate any sort of independence. In the years that followed their liberation and return to self-rule, Norwegians greatly appreciate their freedom and self-determination. Norwegians spent hundreds of years as a rural ‘backwater’ to more powerful nations, and in the 19th century saw massive migration to the US as crops failed and land became scarce. In modern times, however, Norway has experienced great prosperity and frequently tops lists of ‘best places to live’ and ‘happiest people in the world.’
I hope you enjoy this 17th of May, and that the story of Norway makes us all appreciate the concept of freedom, autonomy, self-determination and, of course, wonderful food!
To celebrate this syttendemai, we will be enjoying some Norwegian apple cake! This recipe is so simple, yet so delicious…the perfect sweet cake to celebrate a special day! Below you will find a recipe a tradtional Norwegian Apple cake, or ‘Eplekeke’:
NORWEGIAN APPLE CAKE- EPLEKEKE
1.5 cups sugar
2 tsp vanilla
3/4 tsp baking powder
1.5 cups of flour
3 sweet apples, diced
pecans for top (optional)
- Mix eggs lightly together in mixing bowl.
- Add sugar and vanilla, mixing thoroughly
- Add salt and baking powder, mixing thoroughly
- Add flour to wet ingredients slowly, mixing as you go
- Gently add in diced apples.
Grease a round cake tin or pie plate with butter or cooking spray. Ladle cake mixture into container.
Garnish the top of cake with pecans, if so desired.
Bake for 30 minutes at 350 degrees, or until top is lightly browned.
Serve with whipped cream or ice cream!
“Gratulerer med dagen!”
And if you’re in the mood to learn a little more about Norway’s history and it’s royal family, I highly recommend this video about Norway’s King Haakon and his family’s daring escape as Nazis entered the country. Norway isn’t usually the setting many of us first think of when we think of WWII, but it’s experience and its story is harrowing, and its triumph is amazing. Enjoy–