Today across Wisconsin, the upper midwest, and the world for that matter, Norwegians are lifting their lingonberries and lutefisk in celebration of their Norwegian heritage.

Syttende Mai (pronounced sittendeh moy) translates simply to May 17th. It was the day the Constitution of Norway was signed in 1814, declaring itself an independent kingdom from Sweden, although they were technically still tied together by their shared monarch.

The date began to be celebrated annually early on, likely by some rebellious kids. But celebrating it was actually banned by King Karl Johan in the 1820s, because it was a little too rebellious and it looked bad. Eventually, through some battling and revolting, Sweden and Norway went their separate ways. And by 1833 or so, Syttende Mai was freely celebrated by Norway’s sons. The annual event is sometimes referred to as Constitution Day or Grunnlovsdagen, but most notably, Syttende Mai.

Stoughton holds Wisconsin’s most infamous Syttende Mai celebration. And gatherings are still held in some communities and churches across the northland. But as generations pass, celebrating the mother country’s tradition of independence is fading away.

Wisconsin, particularly northern and western Wisconsin, were once heavily settled by Norwegians. Clues to the once dense population are everywhere: Hansen, Olsen, Larsen, Andersen, and Norske Nook. Oof da.

Source: Wisconsin Historical Society

Some Sons of Norway chapters remain, including Barron, Eau Claire, and Woodville, Wausau, Green Bay and Sturgeon Bay. You’ll often see these chapters taking part in local parades, which is a big part of celebrating Syttende Mai.

If lutefisk isn’t your thing, don’t panic, there are still plenty of ways to celebrate your Norwegian lineage.

Celebrate your heritage:

Eat some food:

  • Go classic: Eat hot dogs wrapped in lefse and consume as much ice cream and soda as you like.
  • Get fancy: Make brunch with cold cuts, cheese, smørbrød and waffles, and serve it with sparkling juice or champagne.
  • Make a kransekake  or other cake and decorate it with Norwegian flags

Posted by Jessica de la Cruz

Publisher Jessica de la Cruz is an independent marketing consultant and award-winning journalist who was born and raised in Spooner, Wis. She has a passion for storytelling, good coffee, meeting new people, and exploring the world around her.

Leave a Reply