As many of you know, Mike and I were invited to visit Elin and Helge and their family in Norway this last week. While there we attended their daughter, Trine’s, confirmation. Confirmation is a larger event in Norway than in Canada. Part of this is because it is the first time a young woman, age 14 or 15, gets her “Native Dress” or “bunad”. This is a big deal in a girl’s life. The dress is the most expensive outfit she will probably ever have, even more than a wedding dress. It is intended to last her lifetime (with a few extra seams for future adjustments). The cost for the dress and accessories is about $4,500 – $9,000 Cdn.
The day started with the five women in the house all getting dressed in their own bunads and helping Trine into her first “real” bunad. It was fascinating to watch and be part of. Smaller children often wear home-made or very simple versions of the bunad that might be shared within a family. It isn’t until the girl is 14 or 15 and almost her full adult size, that she gets her own bunad. You can tell the region a person is from by the colour and design of the dress and the accessories they wear. Trine and her sister had bunads from the Hardanger region which are best known for their distinctive red body and white apron. You will notice that Trine’s mother, Elin, has a dark bunad which is from the Sognefjord region of Norway.
The first skirt I saw on Trine was a very pretty red skirt. It turned out that this was the underskirt and not to normally be seen. Over that was a black skirt and over that a white apron. There had to be 20 or more accessories including some lovely beaded pieces, lace pieces, and many pieces of jewellery that made up the final dress. Items like the belt will change when a girl is married. The women will wear their outfits at special events including Norway’s National or Constitution day when almost everyone who owns a bunad will be wearing it. This year Constitution Day was on May 17, just 3 days after we left Norway. It must have been great to see everyone outside in their folk costumes.
Boys don’t usually get their bunad at confirmation as it is assumed that they will still have a lot of growing to do. By the time they are full grown they aren’t really very interested. I think that out of all the guests only two men were in folk dress.
As we were almost arriving at the church, we found out that the white shift that has to cover Trine’s bunad during the confirmation service had been left at home. We had to turn around and race home to retrieve it. Racing on the narrow Norwegian roads was quite exciting. Fortunately, Elin thought to phone her neighbor and he was able to retrieve the gown from Elin’s house and meet us part way. As they saw us racing up the church driveway, they started ringing the church bells to signify the start of the service. We cut it a little tight.
The church was Lutheran and after the service and pictures on the lawn we drove to a lovely inn for Trine’s party. We had been at the inn the night before helping to decorate the inn with items from momentous events in Trine’s life and photographs of her childhood. The guests were basically all family with very few exceptions. Elin, Trine’s mother, was very smart and had arranged to have many of their friends and neighbours drop in to her home the next afternoon to eat some of the cakes that would be left-over. The meal and the deserts were excellent. The meal started with tomato soup, chosen by Trine. It was interesting to find out that in the middle of a bowl of tomato soup in Norway, there is often ½ of a hard-boiled egg. It was quite nice. I was surprised that in addition to the soup and the main course of venison, the meal included a lovely desert. Given that there was a table at the back of the room with 30 different cakes, I hadn’t expected a desert served with the dinner.
Helge and Elin who were hosting their daughter’s party, had nicely arranged for Mike and I to be seated with family members who spoke some English. We were made to feel so welcome, even by those that didn’t speak English. Many of them seemed really pleased that we would come back and visit their country and their region for a second time. We had met quite a few people on our last visit two years ago and also some at a few different camping sites in Norway and Croatia. We are beginning to feel like we know a few of them.
The Norwegian flag is typically flown over houses for special occasions either within the region or occurring within that family. Confirmation of a child counts. If you want to fly flags at other times you actually fly a pennant that looks like a stretched flag. These can be seen in many places every day. We have seen the pennants used in other Scandinavian countries as well.
Different from most parties in Canada, there was no alcohol at the confirmation party. It isn’t that Norwegians don’t drink, but they don’t drink much at family events with children. Also, the country has a .02 alcohol limit for driving. This basically means that you cannot drink anything and then drive. If you have ever seen the winding narrow roads on the west coast of Norway, you would completely understand this law!! As our friends know, Mike and I are absolutely fine with no alcohol. According to my family I often forget to offer any at home and just make coffee for people. There was plenty of coffee for me at the dinner.
The picture at the top was taken in Elin and Helge’s backyard. It is really nice to see that Norwegians appear to appreciate the beautiful country they live in. They don’t take the views for granted just because they see them every day. After the two days of partying were over, Helge and Elin spent one full day driving us around the region. Helge told us that there had to be some advantages to being your own boss ?. There are very few houses in this part of Norway. Even then, it was interesting how often we would drive by houses that belonged to an uncle or a cousin or a niece or nephew. A large part of the family has stayed very close to their roots.
Helge’s last name is Dale and some of his family still live in and around the nearby, very small community of “Dale”. I had made the erroneous assumption that the town was named for the many Dales that live there. Apparently, it is the other way around in Norway. Many families were named based on where they lived, so if you were from the community of Dale your last name could easily be Dale.
The scenery in Norway, as we all know, is absolutely beautiful. Surprisingly much of the scenery where our camper is currently located in the Bay of Kotor, Montenegro, actually looks quite similar to Norway and its fjords. Theoretically, since we are currently more than 2,000 km or 1400 miles south of Elin and Helge, we should have much warmer weather to go along with the scenery. This might normally be true, but not this year. The weather in Montenegro and southern Croatia has been quite cool. The customs official at the border teased us about bringing our weather from Canada to Croatia.
I couldn’t resist including this picture of the sign that you see as you are leaving the airport in Bergen. Are they not sure of the name of their own city?
Quite a few Norwegian words sound similar to their English translations. You have to be careful though, Mike almost got caught at breakfast. He was offered “Appelsinjuice” to drink. He was quite surprised to see pictures of oranges on the box. Apple juice in Norway is called “Eplejuice” and the Eplejuice box had pictures of green apples on it.
Our thanks to Helge, Elin and family for a great visit. Congratulations to Trine on her confirmation. Thanks to Martin for loaning us his suite above the garage and best wishes to Helene on her three weeks coming up in San Diego. We hope to meet up with some of the family this summer, possibly in Austria.