As the coronavirus has taken over most every public realm these past months, so it has with our national and local holidays. No in-person church on Easter, no parades and drink on St. Patrick’s Day, no brunch on Mother’s Day and a muted fishing opener.
So, we slipped right by May 17 without due recognition.
To us Norwegians, May 17 - Sytendde Mai, or Norwegian Independence Day - is a most important day of the year, right after Christmas, Easter and our own Fourth of July.
In 1905, Norwegians celebrated their long-sought freedom. The Swedes said good riddance, and that the Norwegians were too stoic and stubborn to govern anyway.
As youngsters, we heard repeatedly that, “a tousen Svedes run tru da veeds, a shasd by vun Norveegn."
When Scandinavian immigrants came to this area - up the horse trails or on the railroad - when they got to Pequot, the Norwegians turned left (it fit their politics) and the more conservative Swedes settled east of town. The Finns came with us.
As we grew up, west of Pequot, we were led to believe that this little corner of the world was made up of two groupings. There were us Norwegians; and there were those who wished they were.
We grew up with church (Kedron) every third Sunday afternoon. It was conducted by a very kindly, very Norwegian minister from Brainerd. He spoke and sang at the same very laborious pace, some in English and more in Norwegian, but always veeerry sllooowwly. It seemed hours before we descended the steep and narrow stairway for a “church basement” lunch to wrap up the afternoon.
A 2017 World Happiness Report proclaimed Norway as the happiest nation on earth, edging out fellow Scandinavian Denmark. Here’s why.
- Norwegians let their kids roam free. The village or community helps raise them.
- They let everyone move freely - almost no fences - and nature’s bounty is open for everyone.
- They take long vacations. They don’t work to make a few more dollars.
- They share their wealth. They even pay their high taxes willingly.
- They embrace a communal spirit. It’s taking a coronavirus to push us in that direction.
- In Norway, education is paramount. Teaching is the most honored profession.
- Norway is a peaceful nation. It doesn’t have its media filled with murders and armed robberies. Guns and violent crimes are few and far between.
- Norwegians don’t worry about prescription costs and astronomical medical bills because health care is provided to everyone lifelong.
- Like our USA, Norway is rich in natural resources (oil). Unlike the USA, Norway’s mineral rights are nationalized and everyone shares in the profits.
Trump doesn’t get it right very often, but a couple years ago, while stonewalling most other hopeful emigres, he welcomed Norwegians to America. My ancestors came over a century pre-Trump; and present day Norwegians not too respectfully declined the invite.
A belated happy Norwegian Independence Day to all.