Thursday, May 17, 2012

May 17th: Norwegian Constitution Day

Me in a traditional Norwegian bunard.
     "Gratulerer!" (congratulations) was the cry of the day. Usually reserved for birthdays, the word was of course appropriate on Norway's own birthday, May 17th! This is the day in 1814 when Norway won its freedom from Sweden and established a constitution (think 4th of July, only super fancy). Everyone puts on their traditional "bunard" and celebrates out in the streets with sausages and sour cream porridge---which is way more delicious than it sounds, I promise. If you don't have a bunard of your own, like me, you dress as if you're going to a fancy wedding. After a huge breakfast with friends, guys and gals---dressed to the nines---head to the nearest State Church where the local bishop leads a service to bless the nation, choirs perform traditional songs, and the military holds a short memorial for lost soldiers. Afterwards, all the local schools parade through the streets, then it's on to barbecues and ice cream socials for the rest of the day! 
May 17th, circa 1910.
     What I find totally incredible about this day, though, is all the different bunards! Every region, sometimes even an individual farm, has it's own design that's been passed down for hundreds of years. Normally guys and girls get their bunards when they are confirmed by the church at age 14, and it's not uncommon that a mother or grandmother will have been embroidering bits of fabric, or buying individual pure silver or gold buttons each year, since they were just a baby. Altogether, a bunard can cost anywhere from $4,000 to $6,500, and they will wear them on special occasions for the rest of their lives (they're made with extra bits of fabric that can be let out as you grow). The one I'm wearing in the photo is borrowed from a friend, Heidi, who wears the bunard of her mother's homeland in the West Telemark region. It was a super heavy dress, and it took two extra people to get me into it, but it was so fun to play dress-up Norwegian style! 

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