History, geography and way of life

Traditions and celebrations

Special days

New Year’s Day
The year starts in January. We refer to the 1st of January as New Year’s Day. Most shops are closed on this day, many people have the day off from work, and children have free from school.

Women’s Day
The 8th of March is International Women’s Day. In the 1970s, many people were involved in the struggle for equality and women’s rights and International Women’s Day has been celebrated in Norway every year since 1972. The 8th of March is not a public holiday.

Easter
The Easter holiday is celebrated in March or April. The exact time varies from year to year. Easter is a Christian holiday. But, for many people, Easter is not primarily about religion. Easter means a number of days off after a long winter.

Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter Sunday are public holidays. The shops are closed, and most people do not work on these days. Schoolchildren have all of Easter off school, and many employees take extra holidays in addition to the public holidays.

Ascension day and pentecost
Ascension Day is 40 days after Easter and Pentecost is 50 days after Easter. Both of these are Christian holidays. Ascension Day and Whit Monday are public holidays.

Workers’ day
May Day, or 1 May, is International Workers’ Day. On this day, many people march in the streets to draw attention to political issues that concern them. May Day is a public holiday.

Constitution day
17.mai 17.mai 17.mai

Norwegian Constitution Day is on 17 May. This is when we celebrate that the country established its first constitution on 17 May 1814.

Constitution Day is first and foremost a day for children. Nearly all kindergarten and school children take part in parades where they wave the Norwegian flag and sing. Most people dress in their finest clothes. Marching bands in colourful uniforms lead the parades. Many children play in such marching bands.

On 17 May, it is common to eat hot dogs and ice cream. Children in Norway look forward to the day with huge anticipation. 17 May is a public holiday.

Christmas

In December, most people in Norway celebrate Christmas. Christmas is a Christian holiday that commemorates the birth of Jesus. Christmas and the Christmas celebration are an important tradition for most people. Christmas is, above all, a family celebration.

Christmas takes place during the darkest time of the year and, for many, this celebration is synonymous with light and warmth, when winter is at its coldest and darkest. Long before Norway became a Christian country, large celebrations were common during this time of year – probably to brighten up the darkness.

The 24th of December is called Christmas Eve. On this day, it is customary to eat a traditional Christmas dinner together with family. Different parts of the country have different traditions. Most people have their own traditions and feel strongly about following them. It is common for people to give each other Christmas gifts on Christmas Eve.

During the weeks before Christmas, many people send cards or e-mails to friends and family, wishing them a Merry Christmas. School children have free from school during Christmastime and many people take time off from work. Shops are closed for several days during Christmas week.

New Year’s Eve
Fyrverkeri

Many people celebrate New Year’s Eve on 31 December with family and friends. It is common to set off fireworks. At Midnight, it is a fantastic sight to see the dark skies illuminated with firework rockets and other fireworks. New Year’s Eve is not a public holiday.

Other big days

Birthdays
Bursdagsbarn som blåser ut lys på kaka

It is customary to celebrate birthdays, especially for children. In addition to having a family celebration, children often have a birthday party and invite friends from their kindergarten or school.

Most birthday parties are held at the child’s home, though sometimes elsewhere, such as at a pizzeria, indoor swimming pool or other activity-centred place for kids. The guests bring a small gift for the birthday child.

Wedding
Brudepar

Every year, around 23,000 couples get married in Norway. Well over half of them get married in the church, while the rest get married in a Registry Office. People of the same sex may also get married in Norway.

Most people who get married celebrate their wedding with family and friends. It is customary for wedding guests and others who know the bride and groom or their families to give a gift to the couple.

Baptism
Approximately 60,000 babies are born in Norway every year. Between 50 and 60% of them are christened in church as infants. When a child is christened, it becomes a member of the church. The parents decide whether or not to christen a child.

When a child is baptised, there is often a big family celebration with presents for the child. Families of children who are not christened in church often hold a non-religious celebration for the child. Some participate in a formal Humanist naming ceremony, while others hold a private celebration.

Confirmation

When young people reach the age of 14 or 15, they can choose to participate in a confirmation ceremony. This means that they wish to remain a member of the church. In recent decades, the humanist confirmation ceremony has become increasingly popular. It is a non-religious coming-of-age ceremony.

In the time leading up to the confirmation ceremony, the young people attend a conformation course organised either by the church or by a life stance organisation. The religious confirmation courses teach Christianity, and participants discuss ethical and moral issues. Participants in the humanist confirmation course learn about secular humanism and discuss life stance issues, ethics and morals.

The confirmation ceremony is often followed by a big family celebration with presents for the young person. Around 60% of young people choose a church confirmation, while around 20% choose a humanist ceremony. About 20% of young people choose not to have a confirmation ceremony at all.

Funeral
Kiste

Around 40,000 people die in Norway every year. Just over 90% of them are buried in ceremonies organised by a church. This means that a pastor leads the funeral ceremony.

There are two types of funerals: burial and cremation/urn interment. Burial means that the coffin containing the dead person is placed in the ground, while, in a cremation ceremony, the dead person is cremated and the urn containing the ashes is placed in the ground.

Cremation has become more and more common in Norway. About 40% of dead people are cremated.

Facts

1. January: 1 New Year’s Day.

8. March: International Women’s Day.

In March / April: Easter.

40 days after Easter: Ascension

50 days after Easter: Pentecost.

1. May: International Workers’ day

17. May: Norway’s national day.

24. December: Christmas Eve.

31. December: New Year’s Eve.