Norwegian Language Blog

Gratulerer med dagen! Posted by on May 16, 2009 in Culture, Holidays, Traditions

In Norwegian, “gratulerer med dagen” can either mean “happy birthday” or it can be said on a day like syttende mai to mean something like “congratulations on this day!”  It’s almost a happy birthday to Norway-to celebrate the day that the country adopted it’s own constitution.  So at midnight tonight, you should all show off your Norwegian and tell everyone you see “gratulerer med dagen!”  You might be wondering how to pronounce this so you really get it down and can feel good about it.  It’s kind of tricky to describe in writing, but I’ll try to spell it out phonetically to the best of my ability: grah (like “ah” when the doctor tells you to open your mouth to check the back of your throat…)-too-lair-er may (kind of “may” mixed with “meh”) dog (like your pet) -en.  Try that.  The “r”s in “gratulerer” are of course supposed to be flipped, so give that a whirl.  I attempted to explain how to flip ‘r’s in one of the previous posts, so reference that if you need to.

So what do Norwegians do on this glorious day?  Well, most of them are hungover to start the day, which seems odd.  The night to party is tonight, the night before syttende mai (pronounced soot (like root but remember not to use the ooo like ooolala pronunciation) -en-eh my).  Today is the 16th of May-sekstene mai (pronounced sigh (like you are exasperated)-sten-eh my.  I remember this day 3 years ago when I was living in Oslo, we went out and partied hard.   And woke up much too early for my comfort.

The day begins early with a great big breakfast usually with friends and/or family.  I went with some friends to one of their friend’s houses and was amazed at the spread of food before me.  There was a variety of breads, cheeses, meats, olives, and pastries.  There were hard-boiled eggs, an array of fruit, and of course, champagne.  Drink it as is or mix it with orange juice, also known as a mimosa to us.  You hang around and eat and talk about the night before and then head down to the parade!  Because I was in Oslo, the parade would be the biggest in the country and it takes place on Karl Johans Gate, the main drag of Oslo.  Everyone stands around and watches for the royal family to come onto a balcony of the palace and waive.  School kids march on by in the parade.  The Russ, who I have mentioned in the past, also partake in the parade, all dressed in their russ colors.  The most fascinating part of the day for me was to be able to look at all of the different traditional attire that men and women wore.  Bunads galore.  I saw so many different beautiful bunader (bunads) from all over the country.  Some people know bunads so well that they can tell you where this bunad is from and where that bunad is from.  Bunads are specific to regions of the country.  While female bunads are dresses, men’s traditional costumes are also referred to as bunads, but they are not dresses. 

If you go to Norway for syttende mai, you will see ornate costumes, milions of Norwegian flags, many little children walking in the parade, and Russ that are so partied out they probably don’t look too good.  You will hear lots of music and see lots of smiling faces.  It is a great time.  I think just about every community in Norway has it’s own celebration.  Oh, and I forgot an important part of the day-is- ice cream.  You must eat is! 

Gratulerer med dagen tomorrow!  I will be at a wedding reception tonight, no doubt partying, so I’ll keep Norway in mind and party for her too!!

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About the Author: kari

I attended St. Olaf College in Northfield, MN, where I majored in Norwegian and History. During college, I spent almost a year living in Oslo, Norway, where I attended the University of Oslo and completed an internship at the United States Embassy. I have worked for Concordia Language Villages as a pre-K Norwegian teacher and have taught an adult Norwegian language class. Right now, I keep up by writing this Norwegian blog for Transparent Language. Please read and share your thoughts! I will be continuing this blog from my future residence in the Norwegian arctic!


  1. Anna:

    Grattis Norge!!! The most points for a winning song EVER!!! 🙂 This year’s Eurovision was a lot of fun and I’m so happy that Norway won.

  2. Janay Griffiths:

    Of course, what a fantastic site and illuminating posts, I definitely will bookmark your blog.All the Best!