Nothing can rain on the Kirkenes parade: 17 of May

Yesterday was certainly a chilly “Syttende Mai” in Kirkenes, but those celebrating Norway’s Constitution Day hardly noticed. 


Despite temperatures close to zero degrees Celsius, a crisp wind and the occasional snowflake, the marching band of trumpets and trombones boomed through the far northeastern town of Norway.

About 1,500 people from Hesseng, Sandnes, Bjørnevatn and Kirkenes smiled, waved and celebrated outdoors at the 10:00 a.m. parade.

“I don’t think we’ve ever had so many people here before,” said Unni Sildnes, whose Kindergarten daughter was one of many students marching, cheering and leading the children’s parade around the downtown streets of Kirkenes. 

Parents watched from the sidewalks, or accompanied their children with strollers, socks and ribbons adorned with white, blue and red.

Many of the women and men also wore traditional Norwegian attire – bunads, which look like modern folk costumes adorned with gold and silver jewelry.

A woman and her child, wearing a traditional Sami customs at the children’s Constitution Day parade in Kirkenes, Norway.

Historically, bunads represented the family home and where a person came from. But today, the lavish costumes are most often seen at festivals, weddings and special occasions, such as May 17. 

Following the Constitution Day parade, families and friends gathered at the local school to eat an assortment of festive cupcakes, hot dogs and ice cream.

“It was awesome,” Sildnes said. “There was a lottery, children’s games where you had to run around with an egg and a spoon, bag races and relays. So many people were cheering!”

The events were followed by another afternoon public parade, where local organizations, sports teams and choirs participated. Most participants came from a 15 km radius outside of Kirkenes, Sildnes said.

So what was the highlight of the day? “The traditional Norwegian whipped cream scone cakes,” Sildnes laughed.

From brilliant sunny days to winter hailstorms, spring weather in Kirkenes is always unpredictable. But on May 17, Kirkenes’ appetite for parades and good cheer never wavers.