The day everyone walks

Yes, we love this country! Or at least some of us really like the countryside. ^_^

May 17 is Norway’s national day – unlike most nations, it celebrates our constitution rather than our independence. Arguably, our independence comes from this celebration of the constitution. It was a highly politically charged tradition during our union with Sweden, up until 1905 when the union was dissolved. By then, the tradition of celebrating May 17 was established as a joyous occasion for the whole family, although the original reason for having the May 17 marches headed by singing children was probably to discourage loyalist police from shooting at the marchers, as happened occasionally during the early years.

Be that as it may, Norway and Sweden are now best friends, but the celebration continues, headed by singing children waving small flag joyously. It is the one day of the year when nearly all Norwegians actually walk, an activity that we should do a lot more in order to keep our health care expenses (and bodies) from ballooning. (Children holding balloons have become a part of the May 17 tradition, but ideally the children should not look too much like the balloons!)

In the mid to late 1800s, Norwegians stood together in the face of a challenge to their cultural identity. As a result, we not only got this particular tradition: We got a national cultural renaissance of epic proportions for such a small nations. Writers (including Ibsen), composers (including Grieg), artists (including Munch) and even some capable politicians. Those were the days. Today, we are a success story of a nation, widely recognized as the world’s best country to live in. And we are not only unremarkable: We cannot even be bothered to walk half an hour a day to save our own lives, much less to save billions on health expenses. Even a quarter of an hour would be a great help, say scientists. But we can’t be bothered to do even that for the country we love – or for our friends and family, or even for ourselves.

A Norwegian proverb says: “It takes a strong back to bear good days.” I suspect this applies to everyone, but it certainly does here.

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