17.mai is Constitution Day in Norway, marking the country’s independence from Sweden. Celebrations begin at sunrise in every town, village and city throughout the country with parades, speeches, picnics and music, often lasting late into the night. Women, men and children dress in their traditional costumes, or bunad, the design of which is based upon one’s region of birth.
The tradition of the bunad arose around the same time as Norway’s independence and emergence as a country in the early 1800’s. Each region of the country was encouraged to incorporate their local needle arts and metalworking traditions into the design of a unique dress costume as a method of fostering a national culture and identification after the country’s long period of occupation by various countries and invaders.
The bunad today is unchanged from its original, officially adopted design, thanks in large part to what many Norwegians refer to as “the bunad police,” a group of officials in each region of the country who certify the authenticity of every bunad made. And, not only does one have to have their costume “certified” but the individual themselves must prove that they are entitled to wear a particular region’s bunad which is based on maternal lineage and one’s own place of birth.
The making of one’s bunad is traditionally done entirely by hand, and supervised by the “bunad police” every step of the way. It may take years for a young woman or (increasingly) man to complete their costume. It’s expensive, time consuming and requires considerable skill with a needle and thread.
friends Line and Arnfinn, 17.mai 2004 (Arnfinn made the striking bunad he is wearing)
Once complete, the bunad is worn on 17.mai (of course) and also for other special days and ceremonial events such as weddings.
Gratulerer med dagen! til alle Norge.