The 17th. of May is Norway's national holiday. A day when Norwegians dress up in their best, often traditional clothing and hit the streets for a celebration. There are parades, ice cream and singing. Everyone you know is out and about and feeling festive. Even people you don't know are entirely likely to greet with a "gratulerer med dagen!" (congratulations on the day), which, if you've ever met a Norwegian, you will know is saying something because we're generally pretty reserved.
The middle of May is also one of the prettiest times of year in Norway (although, let's be honest: anytime is the prettiest time of year in Norway!) when the trees are starting to turn green and you can just feel that summer is on its way.
The 17th of May is also one of my top three homesickness days. A day when my poor little heart tries its hardest to pull the rest of of me across the Atlantic ocean to my home. My other home.
But, if I can't go to Norway for the 17th, the 17th can come to me! And it does in the form of the 17. mai celebration in Salt Lake City. Every year on the Saturday following the 17th, displaced Norwegians like me, friends of Norway and people who are pretty sure someone in their family was Norwegian at some point get together at the International Peace Gardens for a celebration. And there is a parade! And people dressed in national costumes, and ice cream and singing and people we know. And it just feels like a great big band-aid for my aching heart.
This year was extra special, because we had Espen. Not only because the 17th of May is largely a day for the children, but also because it was an introduction for him to his own Norwegianness. Not one that he will remember, of course, but something we will be able to look back on and know that being Norwegian has always been a part of who he is.
And, of course, him having his own bunad (national costume) didn't hurt one little bit.
My mother knit a bunad for Espen to wear and, oh!, my heart was exploding with motherly and national pride every time I looked at him. Can you blame me?
Of course he was the little man of the hour, a junior celebrity with his own following of groupies.At one point they asked anyone wearing a bunad to stand up, so I help Espen up over my head so he could join in. There were gasps and oohs and aahs and smiles... and I loved it! It seems the way to my heart is through the adoration of my son, because I was absolutely delighted for his fans to come up and meet him. It also seems that while I'm generally not inclined to tooting my own horn or self-promotion, I am absolutely shameless when it comes to Espen. He is just so cute!
So, in conclusion, it was a great day. The weather even cooperated so far as to lend us that extra flair of Norwegian authenticity by sending a hail storm our way. As I watched the crowds disperse, I was reminded how nothing says "17. mai" like umbrella-clutching women in 17th century dress clambering into SUVs.
Maybe next year we'll be in Norway? Until then, gratulerer med dagen!