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Norway, officially known as the Kingdom of Norway, is located in the northern section of the Scandinavian Peninsula. The country has egalitarian ideals, an excellent welfare system and has ranked first on the World Happiness Report.
Norway has a long, rich history and has been part of myths and legends that still captivate today (think Norse mythology). Norway’s landscapes are among the most fascinating and majestic in the world, from fjords to glaciers and mountains. For visitors to Norway, the incredible combination of natural and cultural wonders makes the country unforgettable.
Norway is represented by many official and unofficial symbols that highlight this rich culture and landscape. Let’s take a look at popular Norwegian symbols and what they represent.
- National Day: 17th of May – Constitution Day in Norway
- National Anthem: Ja, vi elsker dette landet (Yes, we love this country)
- National Currency: Norwegian krone
- National Colors: Red, white and indigo blue
- National Tree: Norway spruce
- National Animal: White-throaded dipper (bird) and the Fjord horse
- National Dish: Farikal
- National Flower: Bergfrue
- National Fruit: Apples
- National Dress: Bunad
The Norwegian Flag
The national flag of Norway is comprised of a red field defaced by a Scandinavian cross (indigo blue) with a white border around it, dividing the flag into four quarters. All four arms of the cross extend to the edges of the red field. The vertical line of the design is shifted closer to the hoist side, similar to the flag of Denmark.
The current design of the flag of Norway was designed by Fredrik Meltzer in 1821. During that time, the flag committee had also come up with a proposal for another design which had only two colors on it: red and white. However, Meltzer objected, saying it was too similar to the Danish flag and recommended the tricolor instead which was approved and has been used as the national flag ever since.
The colors of the Norwegian flag denote the country’s independence and liberty. The indigo blue cross symbolizes the union between Norway and Sweden as well as its past association with Denmark. It’s also a symbol closely associated with Christianity, something you’ll see in many Nordic countries.
The Coat of Arms of Norway
The Norwegian Coat of Arms is the arms of King Harald V of Norway and represents both the kingdom and the monarch. It features a golden lion superimposed on a red shield bearing an axe with a silver blade and a golden crown on top. This is said to be one of the oldest coats of arms in all of Europe.
The coat of arms is used by the Parliament, the Supreme Court and the King which, according to the Constitution, are the three powers. It’s also used by several regional, national and local authorities such as County Governors, the courts of appeal and the district courts. In banner form, the arms serves as basis for the flag of the monarch, known as the Royal Standard.
The Norwegian coat of arms originated back in the 13th century. Its design derived from the arms of the Sverre dynasty. Originally, it had only the golden lion on the red shield but over time underwent several modifications where certain symbols like the silver axe was added. The current design was finally adopted in 1992 and hasn’t been changed since.
The National Anthem of Norway
The Norwegian song ‘Ja, vi elsker dette landet’ meaning ‘Yes, we love this country’ in English, was originally a patriotic song that came to be regarded as national anthem in the 20th century. Written by Bjornstjerne Bjornson and composed by Rikard Nordraak, the song gradually replaced the de facto national anthem of Norway ‘Sonner av Norge’ and was officially adopted in 2019. Up until then, Norway had several de facto anthems but not an officially recognized one, a position that was taken by this song.
The national costume of Norway, the ‘bunad’ is a traditional folk costume that’s most popular with women although it’s also worn by men. The outfit is smart, colorful, made with wool and generally accessorized with buttons, jewelry and metal buckles. The male bunad consists of knee-length trousers, a linen embroidered shirt, a jacket, a vest, shoes, stockings and a hat. They’re less decorated than the female bunads and are noble-looking, elegant and just as interesting as the female version.
The female version is always decorated with a lot of embroidery that runs through every piece of the outfit tying it all together. The color of the embroidery could say a lot about the wearer, like her marital status. For example, wearing a bunad with white embroidery meant that you’re single, multicolored meant married and black was usually worn by widows.
The bunad plays an important role in Norwegian culture and symbolizes patriotism. Today, it’s one of the most popular traditional costumes in the world. Bunads are worn for special occasions and various events and every year on Norway’s Constitution Day, thousands of Norwegians can be seen in the streets, dressed in their colorful bunads.
Farikal, meaning mutton in cabbage, is a delicious Norwegian dish made of mutton, cabbage, whole black peppercorns and salt boiled together for several hours. It’s ready when the mutton is tender enough and falls off the bone easily and is typically served with boiled potatoes. Although this humble, simple dish is traditionally prepared in autumn, it’s eaten all throughout the year and has been considered the traditional national dish of Norway since 1970s.
Farikal is a much-loved dish among the Norwegians because its ingredients symbolize Norway’s bounty. Together, every ingredient of the dish forms a small piece of the country. The dish has been popularly eaten in Norway for many generations and is usually found on the menu in the fall during the cabbage and lamb season.
Bergfrue (Saxifraga cotyledon) is a beautiful perennial flower that grows in the European mountains and has many large, flat rosettes of strap-shaped, broad leaves with fine teeth. There are more than 440 different varieties of Bergfrue and each one has its own unique features. The most common color is white, but they can also be found in different colors such as pink, yellow, white or red.
This flower is easy to grow from seeds and has the ability self-sow. It was chosen as the national flower of Norway in 1935, symbolizing affection, passion and devotion.
The national tree of Norway is the Norway spruce (Picea abies), native to central, northern and eastern Europe. The tree is a large, evergreen coniferous tree with little branchlets hanging downwards. It’s a popular choice for the main Christmas tree in many countries around the world. It has a fast growth rate when young but as the tree gets older, it slows down.
The Norway spruce is extensively planted for its durable and flexible timber (known as whitewood or deal) and for the production of paper. Every Christmas, Oslo, the capital city of Norway provides London (the famous Trafalgar Square Christmas tree), Washington D.C and Edinburgh with a gorgeous Norway spruce as a sign of gratitude for the support given by those countries during World War II.
Halling is a traditional Norwegian folk dance performed in the rural areas of the country, typically by young men at parties and weddings. It’s a type of rhythmic, acrobatic dance that consists of several steps which require a lot of strength and grace as well as elation.
Associated with the traditional districts and valleys of Hallingdal after which it’s named, this dance is performed solo although couple dancing is traditional in western parts of Norway.
While Halling is a dance performed by men, many girls are learning the Halling and perform it just as beautifully as the men.
The Fjord horse is a unique, small but extremely strong breed of horse that comes from the rocky mountainous regions in Western Norway. Fjord horses are all dun colored and the breed is said to be one of the oldest in the world. Used for centuries as farm horses in Norway, the horse is popular for its good temperament and distinct appearance.
Fjord horses have long, heavy and thick manes that are usually clipped in a crescent shape between 5-10 centimeters and stands straight up, emphasizing the shape of the horse’s neck. It’s easier to groom and accentuates the animal’s strong neck and the dorsal stripe that’s typically seen in all dun horses.
Fjord horses have existed in Norway as far back as the end of the last ice age and archaeological excavations indicate that this type of horse has been bred for about 2000 years. It has a long history of pure breeding without any crossbreeding from other types of courses. Today, these horses are a favorite at therapeutic and riding schools in Norway. Due to their obedient and easy-going character, they are extremely popular among children and people with disabilities.
Sognefjord or Sognefjorden is the deepest and largest fjord in all of Norway, stretching for 205 kilometers inland from the ocean. It runs through several municipalities and reaches a maximum depth of about 4,291 ft below sea level.
Noted for its dramatic scenery and unspoiled nature, the Sognefjord is a tourist attraction with thousands of summer tourists being a crucial part of the local economy. The area has many unique cultural attractions and a large variety of fun activities for tourists. There is currently a plan to build a road across it, through a tube submerged in the water and anchored to floats which will help people to cross from one side to the other while avoiding storms on the surface. However, whether the plan will be put into action is not quite clear and hasn’t yet been confirmed.
The Sognefjord remains one of the most impressive landmarks of Norway, called the ‘world’s most iconic destination’ by the National Geographic Traveler Magazine.
Norway is a land of stunning scenery and distinct cultural heritage, seen by the country’s unique symbols. If you’d like to learn more about the symbols of other countries, check out our related articles below: