For me, celebrating Norway’s 17th of May in Los Angeles began by vicariously experiencing it through pictures posted on Facebook by Norwegian friends. I woke up to a newsfeed filled with bold and bright Norwegian flags, happy families dressed in beautiful bunads, and smiling kids in parades. It was a lovely start to the day and I much appreciated them sharing their celebrations!
Ideally, I would have attended the festivities at the Norwegian Seamen’s Church in San Pedro that day. It’s a simple celebration with traditional foods (hot dogs, waffles, and Solo are our favorites), a parade around the block waving flags and singing, speeches, and fun and games for the kids. And let’s not forget the ice cream! But this year, “17. mai” fell on a Friday and the kids had after-school commitments until 5 o’clock. The idea of driving in Friday afternoon traffic to San Pedro was unfathomable.
So I had to find an alternate way to mark the day. I had seen that the store Moods of Norway was having a celebration. I was intrigued. The store wasn’t too far away from our home and they were serving waffles. It’s hard to resist Norwegian waffles. At the last minute, I asked an American friend if she was available, the same one who so willingly attended the Kon-Tiki screening with me, but unfortunately she wasn’t.
As I approached the store, I noticed they certainly weren’t shy about attracting attention. Not only was there a large Norwegian flag on display outside the store, but a long pink limousine was parked by the curb as well. Also, many well dressed people were chatting outside and there was a large sign offering waffles and cocktails inside. It turned out that the event was too trendy and hip for me, and the line for waffles was too long, so I really just did a loop around the store and headed back out. A great disappointment. It would have been fun to get a picture of me on their tractor, not to mention a taste of their waffles.
That afternoon, I welcomed the kids home from school with Freia chocolate hearts. For dinner, I served a shrimp dish (a slight nod to Norway since shrimp are a common summertime treat) and surprised the kids with Solo for dinner. A couple of bottles had been hanging out in our refrigerator since Christmas time, waiting for the perfect time to be enjoyed. And of course we had a little Norwegian flag on the table.
The real celebration didn’t happen until Sunday, May 19. Every year on the Sunday closest to the 17th of May, there’s a celebration at Nansen Field in Rolling Hills Estates, about 30 minutes south of where we live. It ended up just being Doobie and me who went since Sonny had a party he wanted to attend.
The Nansen Field festivities make for a wonderfully relaxing family outing. The best part of this celebration is that it’s at a large soccer field with plenty of space for kids to run around and play. We brought a soccer ball and Doobie was mostly running around and shooting at the goal or blocking other kids’ shots the whole time. Even though he came without his brother, he had no trouble making new friends quickly.
We arrived in time to hear the Sunday service which was followed by a “17. mai” speech. This one detailed the history of May 17, 1814, when Norway signed its constitution (but still remained in a union with Sweden). Finally, there was a parade led by the San Pedro Marching Band. By now friends (an American friend from my kids’ school who is with a Norwegian!) had joined us. We waved our flags and sang a patriotic Norwegian song as best we could as we marched around the soccer field. And we admired the many bunads that young and old alike wore.
After the parade, it was time to eat. The food options were very traditional—hot dog, sausage, hamburger, or Norwegian style open-faced sandwiches. The drink of choice was Solo. And there were waffles and ice cream. More than one ice cream was had. It is near impossible to say no to ice cream when they ask in Norwegian!
After a while the kids were invited to join in games, such as sack races and potato races. Doobie had no interest and continued playing soccer. After a while, curiosity got the best of him and he joined us. It turns out that his favorite part of the day was the running races. Parents were welcome to run as well, and there was a grass path for those of us who hadn’t come in running shoes and needed to run barefoot.I look forward to this event at Nansen Field every year. It’s relaxed and laid back. The kids enjoy the huge soccer field and endless ice cream. I feel good exposing them to a part of their heritage. It’s a great way to rekindle our love for Norway, and it makes us, or at least me, eagerly await our yearly summer visit to Norway.
Inspired by my day surrounded by Norwegian culture, I wrapped up my day of Norwegian pride with some traditional risengrynsgrøt (rice porridge served with cinnamon, sugar, milk, and butter) for dinner that evening.