King Harald V’s Day is on February 21, when Norway celebrates by raising flags and a toast to their king. Harald V — a visionary, unconventional monarch — was born on this day. To the world, he might come across as mostly reserved. But everyone in Norway knows him as a creator of impactful change in Norwegian society and politics. Throughout his reign, he’s made the monarchy accessible and more in tune with the times. Thanks to his efforts, press access to Norway’s royal family has remarkably increased. The king even gives interviews to the press — which is probably the first precedent for European royalty. He may be the symbolic head of Norway, but King Harald V doesn’t shy away from expressing a political opinion when it counts.
History of King Harald V's Day
Harald V spent his childhood in the shadow of World War II. When the Germans invaded in April 1940, the royal family had to flee Oslo. While his father stayed behind in Norway, Harald, his two sisters, and his mother, Crown Princess Märtha, left for Sweden. Eventually, the entire family would move to the United States, where Harald spent most of his childhood in Washington D.C.
After the Allied victory, the royal family returned to Norway in 1945 to assume their roles. When Harald’s father, Olav V, died in 1991, Harald became the new king of Norway — Harald V.
Since then, he’s built a reputation as Norway’s atypical king, much loved by his people. Reserved but highly effective, a royal to the bones but accessible to everyone. He’s also brave when it comes to matters of the heart. Harald V broke royal tradition by marrying for love. The now-Queen Sonja was a commoner and therefore off-bounds. Royals at the time could only marry other royals or nobility at the very least.
Like the U.K., Norway is a constitutional monarchy — which means the king does not exercise political power. Nor does he express a political opinion. However, King Harald V is a vocal supporter of L.G.B.T.Q+ rights and religious tolerance. His words have brought comfort to the Norwegians in difficult times, such as the 2011 terrorist attacks in the country.
King Harald V’s values and actions continue to make the monarchy popular in Norway — despite a growing Republican sentiment that wants to abolish the institution.
King Harald V's Day timeline
Harald V is born on 21 February at his parent’s home near Oslo.
Harald V becomes the new king after the death of his father.
Harald V voices his support for L.G.B.T.Q+ and refugee rights in a speech to the people.
In a speech that went viral on social media, Harald V says Norway believes “in God, in Allah, in the universe, and in nothing.”
King Harald V's Day FAQs
Does Norway have a King today?
Yes, Norway still has a king. The King in Norway is the symbolic head of state. Norway’s elected bodies hold all the executive and legislative powers.
What is the meaning of Harald?
The word ‘Harald’ comes from Old Norse and Old English. It means ‘leader of the army.’
Who was the first King of Norway?
In 1885, Harald Fairhair united the small kingships in Norway into a single realm. He’s widely regarded as the first Norwegian king for this reason.
King Harald V's Day Activities
Celebrate like the Norwegians
Join in the celebrations if you happen to be in this beautiful country. People celebrate the birthdays of the royal family by raising flags.
Learn about Norway
Did you know that the Norwegians invented skiing? Or that the country reads more than any other population in the world? Brush up on your Norway trivia today.
Cook a Norwegian meal
Make King Harold V proud by cooking a traditional Norwegian dish today. Consider making Fårikål — a mutton and cabbage stew, the Norwegian national dish. Easy to make, hearty, and delicious.
5 Facts About Norway That Will Blow Your Mind
Most Sami live in Norway
Half of the world’s Sami communities live in Norway’s Finnmark county.
World’s Longest Road Tunnel
The Lærdal Tunnel is the world’s longest and stretches for 15 miles.
The symbolism of the Sami Parliament
Not only does the parliament amplify Sami issues, but it is also shaped like a “lavvo” — the Sami tent.
Nobel Peace Prize
The Nobel Peace Prize has been awarded in Oslo since 1901.
A land border with Russia
The Storskog Crossing is the northernmost crossing border in all of Europe.
Why We Love King Harald V's Day
It pays homage to Norway
Norway celebrates the life and achievement of its current king. Today is also a tribute to Norwegian history and progress. It’s a country that consistently scores high on development, welfare, and happiness indexes.
It’s an example of multitudes
According to King Harald V, the world finds examples of how tradition can co-exist with modernity. Lessons on how not to dismiss everything as relics from the past.
Back to the future
We love celebrations that combine hints of nostalgia and glimpses of what could be. A royal birthday celebration is one of the few things that can effortlessly evoke this feeling.
King Harald V's Day dates