Norway in red, white and blue Posted by on May 17, 2012 in Culture, Holidays, Traditions

Today is syttende mai, the day when people all over Norway put on their best clothes (and smil 🙂 ), pick a hand-held flagg and gather in the streets to celebrate the Norwegian constitution, which was signed on May 17th, 1814 (and formally ended the union with Denmark). As Kari wrote, ”the whole country of Norway is full of parades, music, food, and national costume”.

One of the most important parts of walking in a syttende mai-tog (May 17th parade) is – singing! As the tog proceed throughout the cities, towns and villages of Norway, there are few moments without music. Schoolchildren and other paraders form a marching chorus, singing songs about Norway and freedom while the local brass band plays along on trumpets, trombones, tubas and trommer (drums).

As you already know the Norwegian national anthem, I’ll give you the first verse of another popular song, Norge i rødt, hvitt og blått – ”Norway in red, white and blue”. Norwegian nature words are not always possible to translate directly (mo means something like ”a sandy plain at a brook or river”), but let’s try:

Hvor hen du går i li og fjell,

where(ever) you walk in slopes and mountains/highland,

en vinterdag, en sommerkveld,

a winter’s day, a summer’s day,

ved fjord og fossevell,                

at the fjord and (mighty) waterfall,

fra eng og mo med furutrær,

from meadow and plain with fir trees,

fra havets bryn med fiskervær

from the fringes of the ocean with fishermen’s villages

og til de hvite skjær,

and to the white reefs,

møter du landet i trefarvet drakt,

you meet the country in three-coloured dress,

svøpt i et gjenskinn av flaggets farveprakt.

wrapped in a reflection of the glowing colours of the flag.

Se, en hvitstammet bjerk oppi heien

Look, a white-trunked birch (up) in the moor

rammer striper av blåklokker inn

is framing stripes of harebells (blue flowers)

mot den rødmalte stuen ved veien;

against the red-painted cottage at the road;

det er flagget som vaier i vind!

that’s the flag flying in the wind!

Ja, så hvit som hvite er sneen,

Yes, as white as the white is the snow,

og det røde har kveldssolen fått,

and the red the evening sun has got,

og det blå gav sin farve til breen,

and the blue gave its colour to the glacier,

det er Norge i rødt, hvitt og blått.

that’s Norway in red, white and blue.


Here you can hear the song as performed by the Norwegian group Glittertind.

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About the Author: Bjørn A. Bojesen

I was born in Denmark, but spent large parts of my childhood and study years in Norway. I later returned to Denmark, where I finished my MA in Scandinavian Studies. Having relatives in Sweden as well, I feel very Scandinavian! I enjoy reading and travelling, and sharing stories with you! You’re always welcome to share your thoughts with me and the other readers.


  1. Lisa:

    Oh, happy Norge day : ) I have a lot of friends from Norway!

  2. Paul Lunseth:

    I just came back from Norway and Finland. Was there for syttende mai. It was a wondreful trip and I made it all the way from Nord Kapp south to Bergen and then to Oslo. I started in Hellsinki and then took the southbound Hurtigruten to Bergen. Had a wonderful time.
    A year ago I was in Northfield for my St Olaf Reunion and I went to Dundes, asked about you, but they didn’t offer any information since I didn’t know your name.
    Keep up the Blog. I enjoy it.
    Paul Lunseth (Lonset from Molde).
    19108 Rustic Woods Trial, Odessa, FL 33556

    • Bjørn A. Bojesen:

      @Paul Lunseth Hei Paul,
      I’m happy to hear about your trip! It sounds like a very nice experience! 🙂

      I’m sorry to say that Kari has retired from the blog, but I’m sure she’ll take it as a compliment that you asked about her!
      I’ll do my best to keep up the blog…

  3. Siske:

    I was in Oslo this year on the 17th of May, it was one of the most beautiful experiences I had, the syttende mai-tog, military parade and so many people and children and joy, … it was very impressive 🙂 I will make sure to learn this song for next year. Thank you