We pretty much overdosed on Norwegian culture this past weekend when we celebrated Norway’s Constitution Day. Maybe that’s par for the course since it was the 200th anniversary of the constitution. (A fact we learned, it’s the oldest constitution in Europe and the second oldest in the world after USA’s!) Every year there are two main events in the Los Angeles area to celebrate the Norwegian holiday. The first one is always on the actual day of May 17th at the Norwegian Church in San Pedro, and the other one is on the closest Sunday at Nansen Field in Rolling Hills Estates. We’ve never attended both in one year, but this year we did, and they were one right after the other!
The celebration at the Norwegian Church has traditionally been hard for us to attend since it means driving to San Pedro, about 30 miles away, on a weekday after school for a 5 o’clock event. After-school activities, sports, homework, and traffic have made that close to impossible. But this year, the seventeenth of May fell on a Saturday so many of the factors prohibiting us from going in the past were a non-issue this year. I seized the opportunity. As did over 500 other people! It was the biggest gathering ever.
We were drawn to the promise of traditional Norwegian foods like hot dogs, rundstykker (bread rolls with toppings such as cheese or ham), bløtkake (layer cake with fruit and whipped cream), marsipankake (layer cake topped with marzipan), Solo, and ice cream. There were two food stations set up inside, both with winding lines. To accommodate all the guests in a more timely fashion, they set up another one outside. Everyone was eager for their fill of Norwegian foods.
We sang our national anthem. Even Sonny followed along as best he could. We listened to speeches, with a keen interest in what the children who attend Norwegian School had to say about the constitution. They also sang a medley of Norwegian songs. Even though my boys couldn’t understand anything, they were surprisingly interested in the presentations by the kids.
The high point of the festivities was the parade around the neighborhood. With our own little marching band, we paraded around the block singing the Norwegian song “Hvorhen du går i li og fjell” (“Wherever you go on hillside and mountain”) and proudly waved our Norwegian flags. We were quite the spectacle in this quiet San Pedro neighborhood.
Back inside, there was more food to enjoy, and we especially savored the freshly baked waffles and skolebrød. And of course, there were games and ice cream for the kids.
The following morning we were off again to celebrate Norway. Last year only Doobie and I were able to attend the Nansen Field festivities, but this year the whole family was able to come. What I really enjoy about this event is the large, open field for the boys to play on and for us to lay down our picnic blankets and take it easy. We packed not only a soccer ball but also baseball gear. We were also looking forward to seeing a family we know from our school.
We arrived just in time for the raising of the American and Norwegian flags before the start of the Sunday service and speeches. The service was mostly in Norwegian, but the speeches were in English so our non-Norwegian speaking companions could understand. Afterwards, there was a parade. This time, however, we were led by a real marching band.
The parade was followed by food and games. I was pleasantly surprised by the fact that they were serving hot dogs with lefse this year (Norway’s version of a soft flatbread made of potato), an attempt to get as close as possible to the real Norwegian thing. And I luckily got in line for waffles just before the line became too long.
Unfortunately, we had to leave before the games for the kids started. We saw a guy with a bag full of soccer balls headed out to the middle of the field just as we started heading for the car. I’m sure my boys would have enjoyed that. And I remember fondly the running races from last year, in which Doobie was eager to beat me.
Yes, it was a lot of Norwegian culture in a very short amount of time. But I feel it’s important for the kids to know about their heritage and appreciate it. They don’t get a whole lot of it during the school year. Celebrating the seventeenth of May is a bit like a booster shot. And luckily, it’s followed relatively shortly by their annual summer trip to Norway.