May 17

This year, waking up on 17 May brought to mind a Cat Stevens song:

Morning has broken, like the first morning
Blackbird has spoken like the first bird

I had to look up the text, and saw then, that it is essentially a hymn of gratitude. No matter. The song is beautiful, and the sunlit morning was as pristine as the first morning, no doubt about it. I happened to be in Lillehammer where you can still see snow on distant mountain tops towering over green slopes and the lake down below. May 17 is Norway’s national holiday.

The day is celebrated year after year as earnestly as Christmas. No military parades, but parades of children. Dressed in their finest, waving little flags, they march proudly preceded by their school’s band. In all of Norway, children from all schools march, flanked by their teachers. In the capital, the parade lasts for hours as wave after wave of schools make their way through the centre, up the boulevard to the palace, where the king and his family stand on a palace balcony, smiling and waving (must be quite an ordeal).

Normally, May 17 tends to be cold, often even wet, but this year, the day was spectacularly warm and beautiful. Though I generally go off to the woods on such occasions, I made an exception this year, the last before we cede military control of our country to the USA. I dressed up and watched and listened.

This is the one day of the year when people can wear their beautiful and exorbitantly expensive national costumes. There was a time, not very long ago, when it made sense to own a national costume. Back then, many women did their own embroidery, and some were even able to sew the entire costume. At any rate, the costumes were so durable that they were reused, generation after generation for all major events: Christmas, christenings, weddings, funerals…

Now, they are only used on May 17. And what a sight they are. The town Lillehammer was populated by billowing skirts sprinkled with delicately embroidered flowers, broaches with trembling golden birch leaves, silver belts, richly embroidered linen shirts and intricately shaped tight-fitting brocade bodices. Lillehammer could have been a Rivendell film set (Lord of the Rings).

Norwegians are certainly patriotic, no doubt about it, yet they are surrendering military control of their country to a foreign power. Norwegians are basically peaceable, yet, they have chosen a “protector” that is the most dangerous out-of-control war machine on earth (cf. conversation between Glenn Greenwald and Jeffrey Sachs).

It is terribly sad.

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