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The 17th of May

The 17th of May is the Norwegian national day. It is the day when Norwegians put tuck away their rigidity and blandness and take to the streets. There is shouting and singing and waving of flags in the streets. Not much dancing, though - it is nothing like a South American Carnival - we are Norwegian, after all. Contrary to many other national days around the world, the 17th of May is not about military parades. We do have parades as well - but they are children's parades, as well as parades for ordinary grown ups. But the day belongs to the children. On the 17th of May all children can have as many hot dogs and ice creams as they like. Everyone else puts on their finest clothes - preferably national costumes, or «bunad» and bring their Norwegian flags to the streets to watch the parades and take part in the merriment.

The 17th of May also marks the conclusion of the russ celebration, which is undertaken by all the high school graduates. It's like a three week graduation party. It involves a lot of noise, wearing red or blue clothes, driving around in red or blue cars, as well as insane amounts of alcohol. My friend Jenipher from Uganda provides an excellent analysis here (the expression «Bongo Ice» means something like «completely mental»).

My 17th of May this year began with me waking up. It's already light outside, which doesn't have to mean anything, because it gets light very early this time of year. Then I look at my clock. It says five past eight PM. I think OK, then I've only just fallen asleep. Then tiny little wheels start spinning slowly in my head. Wait a minute! I never go to sleep that early. In fact I went to bed around one o'clock. That is weird. (Wheels keep spinning...) Wait a minute! I must have slept through the day! (More wheels...) Today is the 17th of May! I've slept through the 17th of May! But I was supposed to meet my girlfriend outside my house at eight twentyfive this morning. What happened? Did she ring the bell till she got sick and went away? Why didn't she call? I've got to find my phone! My phone, of course, is nowhere to be seen. My alarm clock rings. I wake up, bathed in sweat.

The rest of the day was great. I had breakfast with friends from the Christian Union, and then went to walk in the parade. We had ice cream and barbecued, and went to watch the fireworks in the evening. And by some miracle, the weather was wonderful (in Bergen, that is actually counted as a miracle).
Preparing for the parade
Buekorps. A tradition specific to Bergen. Involves children marching in the streets with toy guns and crossbows, as well as lots of loud drumming.

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