Norwegian or Swedish?


Flag of the United Kingdoms of Sweden and Norway

Turns out 1905 was a big year. The Russo-Japanese War and nationalist revolution in Russia; my dad was born in County Down, Ulster, Ireland; and Norway became an independent nation after the dissolution of the United Kingdoms of Sweden and Norway, Norway’s political reality since 1814. Before 1814, it had been a member of the on-again, off-again union with Denmark (a.k.a. Denmark-Norway). But that’s another story.

Point is, when my Norwegian grandparents were growing up in the 1860’s and 70’s, it was as citizens, or subjects, of the United Kingdoms. Their flag was a crazy quilt Norwegian and Swedish colors. Life in their home town Christiana (a.k.a. Oslo), Norway’s capital, must have been confusing. The 19th century saw pretty much non-stop animosity and economic rivalry between the two kingdoms. Maybe this explains why my Swedish friends raise an eyebrow even now when I say I’m half-Norwegian. Who knew?


Norwegian Independence Day Parade, Logan Square, Chicago, 1916

But when Norwegian independence became a fact on July 7, 1905, this became their 4th of July. Wow, July is a busy month for national celebrations! (USA, Norway, France, and Northern Ireland among others?) When my mom was a girl in the old Norwegian neighborhood in Chicago (Logan Square), Norwegian independence parades were a regular summer feature.

There sure is a lot to this half-Norwegian business, when you begin to take it seriously.

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