History, geography and way of life
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Traditions and celebrations


Special days

New Year’s Day

The year starts in January. We refer to the 1st of January as New Year’s Day. Most shops are closed on this day, many people have the day off from work, and children have free from school.

Women’s Day

The 8th of March is International Women’s Day. In the 1970s, many people were involved in the struggle for equality and women’s rights and International Women’s Day has been celebrated in Norway every year since 1972. The 8th of March is not a public holiday.

Easter

The Easter holiday is celebrated in March or April. The exact time varies from year to year.

Easter is a Christian holiday. But, for many people, Easter is not primarily about religion. Easter means a number of days off after a long winter.

Shops are closed for several days during Easter and many people have time off from work. School children have free from school during the entire Easter holiday and many working people take off a few extra days from work.

Ascension day and pentecost

Ascension Day is 40 days after Easter and Pentecost is 50 days after Easter. Both of these are Christian holidays. Ascension Day and Whit Monday are public holidays.

Workers’ day

May Day, or 1 May, is International Workers’ Day.

On this day, many people take part in processions (parades) and draw attention to political issues that concern them.

May Day is a public holiday.

Constitution day
17.mai 17.mai 17.mai

Norwegian Constitution Day is on 17 May. This is when we celebrate that the country established its first constitution on 17 May 1814.

The focus of this holiday is primarily on children. Almost all kindergarten and primary school children march in parades, waving the Norwegian flag and singing. Most of them are dressed up for the occasion. The parades are headed by a marching band wearing uniforms. Many children play in these bands

On 17 May children are often allowed to eat as much ice cream and hot dogs as they want. The children of Norway look very much forward to this holiday.

Constitution Day is a public holiday.

Christmas

We celebrate Christmas in December. Christmas is a Christian holiday that commemorates the birth of Jesus.

Christmas and the Christmas celebration are an important tradition for most people. Christmas is, above all, a family celebration.

Christmas takes place during the darkest time of the year and, for many, this celebration is synonymous with light and warmth, when winter is at its coldest and darkest. Long before Norway became a Christian country, large celebrations were common during this time of year – probably to brighten up the darkness.

The 24th of December is called Christmas Eve. On this day, it is customary to eat a traditional Christmas dinner together with family. Different parts of the country have different traditions. Most people have their own traditions and feel strongly about following them. It is common for people to give each other Christmas gifts on Christmas Eve.

During the weeks before Christmas, many people send cards or e-mails to friends and family, wishing them a Merry Christmas.

School children have free from school during Christmastime and many people take time off from work.

Shops are closed for several days during Christmas week.

New Year’s Eve
Fyrverkeri

Many people celebrate New Year’s Eve on 31 December with family and friends. It is common to set off fireworks. At Midnight, it is a fantastic sight to see the dark skies illuminated with firework rockets and other fireworks.

New Year’s Eve is not a public holiday.

Traditions and holidays that do not follow the calendar

Birthday

Bursdagsbarn som blåser ut lys på kaka

It is customary to celebrate birthdays, especially for children. In addition to having a family celebration, children often have a birthday party and invite friends from their kindergarten or school.

Most birthday parties are held at the child’s home, though sometimes elsewhere, such as at a pizzeria, indoor swimming pool or other activity-centred place for kids.

The guests bring a small gift for the birthday child.

Wedding

Brudepar

Every year, around 24,000 couples get married in Norway. Well over half of them get married in the church, while the rest get married in a Registry Office. People of the same sex may also get married.

Most people who get married celebrate their wedding with family and friends.

It is customary for wedding guests and others who know the bride and groom or their families to give a gift to the couple.

Baptism

Approximately 60,000 children were born in Norway in 2010.

A little less than 70 percent of them were baptised in a church as babies. When a child is baptised, it becomes a member of the church. The parents decide whether or not a child is baptised.

When a child is baptised, the family often celebrates with a large party and the child receives gifts.

The families of children who are not baptised in a church often have a non-religious celebration of their child. Some take part in a non-Christian baptismal ceremony organised by the Humanistic Association.

Confirmation

When young people are 14-15 years of age, they have the choice to get confirmed. Being confirmed means that they wish to continue being a member of the church.

Humanistic confirmations, which are a non-religious celebration of the teenagers, have become more and more popular in recent decades. Before the confirmation, the young people attend a preparation course either in the church or a humanist organisation.

During the Christian confirmation course, they learn about Christianity and discuss ethical and moral issues. The course for a non-religious confirmation teaches them about humanism and discusses views on life, ethics and morality.

When young people are confirmed, the family has a celebration and the confirmand receives gifts.

Around 65 percent of young people in Norway were confirmed in a church in 2010, while around 15 percent chose a non-religious confirmation. Around 20 percent of young people do not get confirmed.

Funeral

Kiste

Every year, around 40,000 people die in Norway. A little more than 90 percent of them have a church funeral. This means that a priest leads the ceremony during the funeral.

There are two main types of funerals: burial and cremation ceremony. During a burial funeral, the coffin containing the deceased person is buried in the ground while, during a cremation ceremony, the remains of the deceased are cremated and an urn containing the ashes is buried in the ground.

Cremation has become increasingly more common in Norway. In 2010, 36 percent of those who died were cremated.

Facts

1. January: 1 New Year’s Day.

8. March: International Women’s Day.

In March / April: Easter.

40 days after Easter: Ascension

50 days after Easter: Pentecost.

1. May: International Workers’ day

17. May: Norway’s national day.

24. December: Christmas Eve.

31. December: New Year’s Eve.

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