It will be our first year having representation in the parade, our boy will be waving at the King himself, Harald V of Norway and the royal family. He’ll be with his school buddies as they participate in the national day ‘barnetoget’ or kids parade in Oslo on May 17th, the Norwegian National day.
It’s a great day to be in Norway. After much preparation, Norwegians turn out in their finest traditional dress to celebrate King, kids and country and we are all welcome to pour out on to the streets and join in. In fact living here, I believe we are all rightly expected to come along as it’s a show of integration and respect for our host nation.
The day celebrates the signing of the Norwegian constitution back in 1814, declaring Norway to be an independent kingdom. Although Norway remained under Swedish control until 1905, that day was when the the seed of independence was sown and has been in the national conscience ever since. It’s as much a part of Norway as the fjords. And the parades around the country that day are not a military show, they have no commercial leaning, just music, kids, families and neighbours, talking and walking through communities, waving flags in pride and celebration.
It was a few weeks ago when we got the slip of paper home asking for permission for our boy to join his school in the main parade in Oslo this year. He was hugely excited, the parade was going to walk past the Royal Palace and he was going to meet THE KING HIMSELF, don’t you know. Now I believe the Royal Family come out to wave at the kids as they walk by the palace. It’s a long train of circa. 123 school groups of dressed-up excited flag-waving kids but I very much doubt that the boy will be having a chat with King Harald. Not to worry, the 8 year old boy who spent the first 4 years of his life in London has adapted to Norway as such that King Harald is as much his King as anyone’s. He’s up for the chat. I have to give him credit for his first-rate integration and assimilation.
So we happily signed the permission slip and sent it back to school. He was definitely in.
And then the following day, the next piece of information came home. It was about security and the threat of terrorism on May 17th, apparently there were enough concerns raised by parents that Oslo kommune Utdanningsetaten or the Oslo Education Authority needed to issue a statement. People were worried, should they even allow their kids to be part of the parade this year.
While there is no specific threat that we know of, other than the lunacy of the world in 2017 AD, I think the concern has something to do with the awful attack in Stockholm in April that was felt personally here, Scandinavian countries are very connected. There was also an explosive device found in Oslo in April which warranted raising of the national security threat level and that remains raised now.
So the statement that we received was one of reassurance, asking us as parents not to worry, the police are responsible for security on the day and have taken all possible sensible measures. The advice is to allow kids to enjoy the parade as they always do. Oslo is a safe city. Talk to your kids about it if they are worried or have seen stuff in the media. There is absolutely no plan to change the plan for the day’s celebrations.
The funny think about getting information like this is that it forces you to do an immediate risk assessment. What are the facts and then, are we doing the right thing by allowing him to join the parade. My husband and I decided almost instantaneously that he was going. We couldn’t or wouldn’t ruin his day because of fear of what might happen. Doing otherwise is to say that the terrorists or lunatics or whoever they may be, have won. They have made us so afraid, for no real reason, that they steal our joy and dictate our actions. Screw that.
However, parents have to make the choices they see fit, each to their own. All Norwegians we know are determined that their kids and families will celebrate and enjoy their day as always. Our Polish friends are not allowing their kids to town that day, neither are our Turkish friends. And I suspect that it’s the same for many immigrant families. But then there is probably another factor at play here, perhaps May.17 doesn’t mean as much to immigrants which makes it easier to opt out.
I can’t imagine it’s an easy message to deliver to any child here in Norway, whatever their ethnic origin, as there is much build up to this in schools. The message that kids are not allowed to participate in the parade for fear of something bad happening, but their friends are going regardless, could be a difficult one to manage without instilling fear and worry. But again, parents have to do what they think is right in a situation like this.
So we have the new blazer and the new slacks ready. Our girl has a new frock. One has to look one’s best, you know.
We will be at our local school at 8am for the raising of the flag and singing of the national anthem, Ja vi elsker dette landet, which in English means, Yes, we love this country. We will be there in town too cheering our boy and the parade on, alongside thousands of others on the streets in Oslo. And as for the concerns about anything bad happening, it’s possible that I’ll do many involuntary risk assessments in town that day as I find it hard to put these things completely out of my mind. Maybe it’s the way of the world these days but it won’t stop the fun.
Then we will go to friends for a Norwegian lunch before going to the local school here for coffee, more music and kids games. At the end of it all, it’s always a great day. As time goes on, we are feeling more and more part of Norway and with that, these national days and celebrations are more meaningful and heartfelt.