Yesterday was celebrated by my Norwegian neighbors as Syttende Mai, Norwegian constitution day. Syttende Mai means 17th of May in Norwegian. Much like Cinqo de Mayo or Fourth of July, the date has come to denominate the event. In 1821 Norway, which was part of Sweden, was granted a separate constitution, while remaining under the royal standard of the King of Sweden.
Norwegians celebrate the day with flag waving, parades and speeches. Norwegian descendants worldwide celebrate the day with flag t-shirts, flag waving, speeches, dinners and even festivals. These celebrations are common in areas with a large Norwegian descended population like Minnesota, Wisconsin, Washington and Alaska. Here on the tundra yesterday was celebrated as Syttende Mai. Now I have the good fortune of not being Norwegian. In fact, I am just about 100% of Swedish descent. So I thought that some contrary display to this Norwegian jingoism was necessary.
Syttende Mai represents independence from Sweden (my guys). Even though those precipitous Norwegians waited until 1905 to formally sever their relationship with Sweden. (After a 360,000 to 180 referendum). For 80 years the Norwegians used a flag with a hybrid of the Swedish and Norwegian flags as an ensign. The Swedes inserted the same ensign in the upper left of the Swedish flag.
So I decided to wear my Swedish flag T-shirt yesterday. It was an "in-your-face" taunt at those wild eyed Norwegians, and no one cared. I wasn't chased by gangs of blood thirsty Viking descendants because I had dissed their heritage. The only threat that I received was a good natured offer of a plate of lutefisk, which is a vile boiled cod dish common to both Norway and Sweden.
I guess the answer to this entirely peaceful clash of heritage is easy to explain. All of our ancestors left the old country because America was better. All of the ancestors became Americans, with only a weak tie to their past. There were more American flags displayed than Norwegian flags. Because, while they were celebrating their Norwegian heritage, they were enjoying their celebration as full fledged Americans.