No, Norway did not win the Eurovision Song Contest this week, and yet we celebrate. In this town where I live, we celebrate Syttende Mai (after first learning how to pronounce it.) Syttende Mai is kind of like the 4th of July of Norway, or so we tell each other, because honestly we don’t really know anything more. But it’s very happy, and the kids get out of school (presumably) because the highlight of the day is the Children’s Parade at 1pm. And then you can watch the Nordic Dancers perform. They do traditional Norwegian dances while dressed in traditional costume, you know, waltzes, polkas, stuff like that. There are two groups, probably 50 kids in each, (one of 10th graders, and one of 6th graders).
They audition a new group every five years, exactly. When I was a kid I desperately wanted to be in the Nordic Dancers, but missed out. They were only taking kids born in the grade behind me.
Consider this: I live in a town where both girls and boys are so eager to dance in costume in the street that they have to limit who is even allowed to audition. ! And it’s been going on that way since the mid-1960s. To audition the child has to be in the exact grade of school for that year’s audition — usually when they are in 3rd grade, I believe. Then they commit to doing it for the next umpteen years, until they are booted out, tearful and holding hands, when they graduate at age 18.
In this town, it is very competitive to get into the Nordic Dancers. The kids in it get the chance to go to Norway to perform, but that doesn’t really explain all of it. They dance! In wool costumes! When it’s 90 degrees in the summertime! Last year one friend of mine told me she had overheard other parents actually planning the birth of their next child so that he/she would be born in a year when they would be assembling the next group of Nordic Dancers. This town is like that. (Did I mention that last year everyone in town danced the World’s Largest Schottische on main street, including Tim and me? With 1880 people? Doing one dance together to the music of a live folk band, and it broke the Guiness World Book of Records (who may not have even known what the schottische even was?) And that the average age of the people dancing was about 18 years old, because in this town, the teenagers love, love, love to schottische?
So, Happy Sittende Mai. We don’t have green beer like St. Pattrick’s Day or margaritas like Cinco de Mayo. Um, so, all you really get to do is probably dance a bit of a schottische or waltz on your back deck while you are grilling your hamburgers… which is what we’ll probably be doing.
(Actually, I love the schottische.)