When Norway became free from Sweden

Today, 17 May, is National Day in Norway. Known as ‘Syttende mai’, it is the day on which Norwegians celebrate the signing of their constitution in 1814. The constitution was signed in an attempt to declare independence and avoid ratification with Sweden. But it failed. Norway was forced into an unwilling union with Sweden and ruled under the same monarch with two capitals – Stockholm and Christiania (Oslo). It wasn’t until 1905 that Norway finally gained independence and the forced union with Sweden was peacefully dissolved.

Since then, Norway is fiercely and proudly their own. 17 May is a huge, patriotic party consisting of concerts, parades and parties.

Today, the relationship between Sweden and Norway is very friendly. The Kings of each country are second cousins. Free trade and transportation exists across the seamless border. The main rivalry between the countries appears to come in the competitive world of cross country skiing, where Norwegian athletes dominate.

As a hangover from the times when Sweden saw Norway as their country cousins, there are a lot of jokes mocking Norwegians. In all of these jokes, Norwegians come off as stupid and simple. When I looked further into it, I discovered that the same exists the other way round. In many Norwegian jokes, known as ‘svenskevitser’, Swedes are depicted as stupid or as spectacular failures. It is not untypical that these kinds of jokes exist between neighbouring countries – English jokes about the Irish, Welsh and Scottish being another example.

Equivalent to the ‘Englishman, Irishman and Scotsman’ jokes, Norway also has its ‘the Swede, the Dane and the Norwegian’ jokes. In these jokes, the Dane is usually drunk, the Swede stupid and the Norwegian smart. Here’s an example:

A Swede, a Norwegian and a Dane were arrested in France during the French revolution. They each got to choose which way they would die. The Norwegian chose the guillotine, because he saw it as the latest fashion. His head went under, but the blade stopped 1 inch from his neck. The French saw this as a sign from God or something and decided to let him go. The same thing happened to the Dane who ran off into the nearest tavern to celebrate. Then they asked the Swede how he wanted to die. “I think I’ll die by hanging, that guillotine doesn’t work anyway,” he said.’

So, regardless of who might be considered stupid, today is a day to celebrate Norway! May you have a long and prosperous existence, and may you continue to live in peaceful, slightly ridiculing, co-existence with your neighbours.

Happy Syttende Mai!

Have a Gay National Day!

Tomorrow 6 June is Sweden’s National Day and there are many celebrations going on around the country to celebrate the nation. This is the day Swede’s gather to celebrate their Sweden, and they do it in a variety of ways. With the rise of extreme right wing parties in the EU and in Sweden, a National Day might seem dubious to some people. However, If you want to avoid the ‘traditional’ celebrations, one suggestion is that you make your way to Boulevard Teater on Götgatan on Södermalm in Stockholm. There, at 7pm, National Day is being celebrated with a twist. A very gay one.Stockholm’s Gay Choir are holding the first of three concerts. The second two concerts are at 3pm and 7pm on Saturday 7 June.

All of the songs have Swedish roots and reflect how the choir sees Sweden, what it means to the HBTQ community and why they love their country. The songs are a mixture of passion, glamour, tragedy, vulnerability and joy. In an environment of increasing intolerance, these songs are needed and Stockholm’s Gay Choir stand up for openness, love and acceptance. Tickets can be bought at www.stockholmsgaykor.se or on www.ticnet.se or the box office at the theatre.

So if you want a different kind of celebration, a modern and diverse perspective – have a Gay National Day!

See you there! 🙂

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