Last Thursday, May 17th, Cardiff Bay came alive with brass band music and happy children waving flags, as the Norwegian contingent in South Wales took to the streets to celebrate their national day. It was a gloriously sunny day, and the Norwegians wearing traditional costumes and their very finest clothes, paraded in traditional fashion from the Millennium Centre to the Norwegian Church Arts Centre, where they celebrated their country’s independence.
The Norwegian independence day is still celebrated with great enthusiasm all over Norway. It is impossible to overestimate how important this day is to most Norwegians. Norway is quite a young nation, having received its independence from Sweden is 1905, and it is after all not very long ago that Norway was occupied during the Second World War. So people feel it is most definitely worth celebrating that it is a free country in peacetime. You will see no guns and tanks in the streets in Norway during their celebrations, rather the streets are filled with happy children and adults carrying Norwegian flags and shouting hurray, accompanied by brass bands. It is the people's, and especially the children's day.
Norwegian groups all over the world celebrate in the same way, and in the UK there is a large and very popular celebration in Southwark Park in London, every year attended by thousands of Norwegians. In Cardiff, the celebration is led by the Welsh-Norwegian society, a society started to strengthen the Welsh-Norwegian relationship. People come from all over South Wales and the West Country to celebrate.
This year, as is tradition by now, the group congregated outside the Millennium Centre, where they started off the day with some songs, then paraded to the Norwegian church and arts centre. Here the Norwegian flag was raised and the national anthem sung, accompanied by the Salvation Army band. The group moved inside where they this year were entertained by a string quintet from the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama, playing pieces by Grieg. Later there were speeches and a wreath laying ceremony in memory of the people who have fallen during the World Wars. The event was rounded off with coffee, cakes and waffles in traditional Norwegian style, and at the end there were children’s games on the lawn. Finally – the Welsh Norwegian Society had a Norwegian style buffet meal with a Norwegian twist for members. The Norwegian Church Arts centre is always very supportive of the 17th of May celebrations and do everything they can to support the event, something the WNS is very grateful for.
All in all it was a lovely day. Cardiff Bay showed off its best side, with sparkling seas, a warming sun and a clear blue sky. The parade livened up the streets with colourful national costumes, with sparkling traditional jewellery and red, white and blue flags. Outside the church, the Norwegian flag waved leisurely against the blue skies, framed by green leaves and the pretty white church, much like it might have welcomed the weary Norwegian sailor all those years ago.