Syttende Mai, Bremerton style

More than 70 years of tradition will continue on May 18 as Bremerton’s Sons of Norway Oslo Lodge celebrates Syttende Mai joining with the thousands of other Norwegians across not only the Northwest, but the world.

The celebration will take place from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. at the lodge, 1018 18th St., behind Olympic College’s main parking lot.

In simple terms, Syttende Mai is Norwegian Independence Day, and the celebration hasn’t changed much through the years, explained Oslo Lodge president Susan Remmelle. The day marks the signing of Norway’s constitution in 1814, but it wasn’t until 1905 that Norway gained its full independence from Sweden.

“We try to pattern our celebrations like they are in Norway, but they are on a smaller scale,” Remmelle said. “It has always been our endeavor to promote our Norwegian heritage. So with that in mind, we always incorporate our children in our program.”

In Norway it is a day full of celebration and every town, no matter how small, has their own barne tog, she said. The largest celebration is in Oslo where hundreds of thousands of people congregate dressed in traditional folk costumes to celebrate this important day.

“It is a time of children marching in the streets to show their national pride,” she said. “It is a day full of parades, flag waving, and of course, eating ekte Norsk mat, traditional Norwegian food.”

Like Norway, Norwegian Americans also celebrate this important day and the Pacific Northwest has the largest Syttende mai celebration in the surrounding areas, she said.

“Every lodge celebrates with their own programs,” she said. “At Oslo Lodge we celebrate by incorporating Norwegian foreign exchange students to come and tell us how they celebrate Syttende mai at home. They are always a very welcome part of our celebration.”

This year youth dancers from the Poulsbo Sons lodge, the Leikarringen will give demonstrations of traditional Norwegian folk dance, she said. Also, Poulsbo’s men’s choir, the Vestre Sund Mannsker, will perform.

“There will be a bunad (folk costume) and flag parade,” she said. “This will be a day of celebrating in dance, music, traditional dress, flag waving, and of course, good Norwegian treats to satisfy your taste.”

While the day guarantees to be a time of celebration and fanfare, its importance extends beyond a single day, especially for the children, she said.

“It is through our children that our traditions live on,” she said. “We want to teach them the importance of our heritage so that they in turn can teach their children. That way our traditions and heritage will never die.”

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