5.2. The Cultural Directors Study
The role played by the Church of Norway at the local level was a topic in the survey given to the local cultural directors. We asked them about the ways in which the Church of Norway was integrated in the celebrations at the local level.
shows that seven out of 10 directors state that a worship service is part of the official program in their municipality, a high figure. Only seven percent state that the local church does not take part in the celebrations at all. It is difficult to state, however, exactly how common a worship service is as part of the National Day celebrations on the local level. On average, each municipality has three to four church buildings related to the Church of Norway, meaning that if there is a service in at least one of the four churches, the director will answer in the affirmative. Furthermore, while these worship services may be an integrated part of the main celebrations, as in the Kråkstad case, they are more often a separate part of the celebrations. A small number of the municipalities, 14 percent, report that there is an event in the churchyard right after the parade. This is not a worship service, but an arrangement where some national hymns are sung, and the local vicar greets the parade by saying a few words (for example about the country being protected by God).
A check of public announcements in newspapers in the Oslo area the same year showed that one in three churches had a service on May 17 (Botvar and Holberg 2012
). The number of local celebrations and parades is also difficult to calculate. Altogether, there are 2800 primary schools in Norway, but many of them celebrate together with neighboring schools. In the big cities, all schools tend to meet in the city center to celebrate together. This means that the most reliable data about local celebrations that include a sermon come from counting the number of church announcements.
Even though as many as one in three local churches has a worship ceremony on May 17, this does not mean that people who seldom go to church show up on this special day. On the contrary, a population survey conducted at the same time as the municipal survey shows that the number of churchgoers on National Day resembles the statistics showing regular churchgoers, indicating that it is probably the regular attenders who also show up on this particular day. According to population data from 2012, about seven percent attended a service on May 17. This is about the same number as those who visit a church at least once a month. The number of churchgoers on May 17 is much lower than on other holidays, such as Christmas when 23 percent of Norwegians report visiting a church (Botvar et al. 2013
As shown in Table 2
, in almost half of the municipalities (45%) there are commemoration services in the cemetery outside one of the churches in the morning. The most important part of this ritual is the placing of a wreath on the grave commemorating people who lost their lives during the Second World War. In some cases, the vicar in the local church will hold a memorial service as part of the ritual. Again, it is difficult to say how common this ritual is because the focus is on the municipality as a whole and it is not taken into consideration that it will most often have three to four parishes, each with their own church building.
It is quite common for the children’s parade to start or stop at a church building. This does not mean, however, that the service is an integral part of the event. Usually, services are held before or after the event and the service is only rarely included in the parade’s route, as it is in Kråkstad. In the data material, there is no statistical correlation between the two categories “having a service” and “the parade starts/ends at a church building”. This indicates that the church is mostly used as a landmark for practical reasons, especially in small municipalities with only a few public buildings to choose from.
Our survey does not directly tell us how often the May 17 parade enters a church building. But the low number of municipalities that offer an event in the churchyard after the parade (14%) indicates that this happens rarely. When a worship service is perceived as problematic and an intrusive element in the celebration, the event might end up in the national media, as happened with the Kråkstad case. Every year, a few local cases make their way into the national media.
To ascertain if religion is an integral part of the National Day rituals, we also asked about the role the local vicar plays in the celebrations, where it was found that the vicar has a formal role in the public celebrations in some municipalities. Vicars can, as we have already seen, be active in various ways—in connection with the laying of wreaths, holding worship services, or making other types of speeches and appeals. On a direct question, 23 percent of the municipal directors state that the vicar(s) in their municipality had a special task on May 17. This is a much lower number than those reporting that a worship service is part of the celebration.
Asking about the activity of the vicars is probably a better indicator than asking about the church. In many cases there is a worship service in at least one of the churches in the municipality. But these worship services are often not an integrated part of the celebration. This is the case when the worship service is formally part of the program but taking place at the same time, 11 a.m. for example, as other parts of the program, such as the children’s parade. This is a signal that the worship service is an event intended for the part of the population that does not have children in school.
The role of the vicar is a more concrete question. If the vicar has a prominent role in the program, this is probably something the directors will know about. In Table 3
, the number of “don’t knows” is quite high. This indicates that in some cases the program in the churches is something that takes place off to the side of the main event.
The finding that about one fourth of the local vicars are actively involved in the celebration is supported by the data from the 2012 population survey. In this survey, 24 percent of the informants also state that the vicar in their local community performs special tasks on May 17.
When including the number of inhabitants in the analysis, we find that it is more common to report that vicars have special tasks on May 17 in large rather than in small municipalities. In large municipalities with several vicars, chances are high that at least one of them is involved in the celebrations program. This supports our argument that most vicars are not actively involved in the celebrations.
A follow-up question about what tasks the vicar performs on May 17 shows that this concerns holding services, giving greetings at institutions (senior citizens homes), holding an appeal/speech, or being a member of the May 17 committee. Only two percent of the municipalities mention that the vicar gives the main speech of the day. This happens very rarely and would require a special reason, such as a historical anniversary relating to the church building. Thirteen percent report that the vicar performs “other tasks”. This is probably related to the ritual at the graveyard or the event in the church after the parade. But again, the answers differ significantly when asking about the role of the church and the role of the vicars. When asking about the church, the informants tend to think about the municipality as one unit, but there is one vicar in each parish and several parishes in each municipality.
In the municipal survey, we also asked how religious groups in the municipality relate to the celebration. Fourteen percent of the directors state that some religious groups have their own celebrations outside of the official program. However, only seven percent state that religious groups have their own celebrations in parallel with the official celebrations. This indicates that religious groups tend to join the ordinary events, but that some also have their own events in the evening (for example a social event at their house of prayer). This happens more often in the southern and western parts of the country than elsewhere, in the so-called bible-belt.
The data material gives us reason to believe that over time, it has become less common to include the majority church in the May 17 events. When asked, seven percent of the cultural directors answered that the role of religion in the celebrations has changed over the last five-year period. Answers given to open questions about what kind of changes are seen indicate that what is often mentioned is the service being moved away from the parade and that participation in services is no longer mandatory for children. The inclusion of worship services does not appear to be a controversial topic in most municipalities. Only in a small number of municipalities does the main event of the day, the children’s parade, include a sermon in a church. In such cases, no one has raised this as a problem, or for geographical reasons there is no alternative route.
Our study also indicates that local actors try to minimize conflicts related to religion on the National Day. The informants were asked: Have there been conflicts related to the visibility of religious groups in the May 17 celebration? The question can be interpreted as dealing both with conflict over the role of the majority church and the role of religious minorities. In the survey, only three percent of the municipal directors answered that there had been a conflict relating to religious groups in the celebrations during the last five-year period. Even though six percent answered “Don’t know”, this indicates that religion very rarely leads to conflicts. In the few cases where conflicts have occurred, they relate to the church being too active and visible in the celebrations.
I have now reported on findings from the survey conducted among the municipal directors. The data is somewhat difficult to interpret. Some findings indicate that the church plays an active role in the National Day rituals and celebrations. Other data point in the direction of a minor role. This is especially the case when the role of the vicars is in focus. There is little evidence pointing in the direction of religious groups actively trying to dominate the public events. This would probably have been the situation if religious nationalism had been a driving force behind the celebrations.
5.3. General Population Surveys
What about data from the general population? In what way and to what extent is individual participation in public rituals on National Day linked to civil religion or religious nationalism? Which of the two concepts could best explain public support for the National Day rituals?
Several surveys have touched on this theme, but only a few have used the exact same questions. In this article I will focus on the KIFO survey conducted in 2013 (Botvar et al. 2013
). This survey includes many of the same items that have been asked in earlier surveys, such as the ISSP survey from 1995.3
The surveys referred to are all representative population surveys conducted with assistance from professional data collection agencies.
My analysis is threefold; first, I will look at items showing participation in the National Day rituals to see if there has been a change in the public support over time. Second, I will look at items that can be used as indicators of participation in the public rituals, as well as indicators of patriotism, chauvinism, xenophobia, church involvement in the celebration, and religious nationalism. In the third step, I will conduct regression analyses to see which factors contribute to explaining public support for the National Day rituals. This will indicate what kind of nationalism is dominating the National Day celebrations and in what way the rituals are related to religion.
First, I want to focus on the position the National Day has in the population and see if support for it is declining. This will tell us about the potential for shaping people’s views about the nation. Also, civil religion requires that the rituals are supported by a substantial and varied part of the population.
The two population surveys from 1994 and 2013 asked the exact same question about celebrating the National Day. Even if this represents a time span of almost 20 years, there are only small changes in the way people celebrate National Day. The number saying that they do not celebrate the day has gone up from around five percent to around 10 percent. But this means that about 90 percent of the population celebrates the day. It has become somewhat more common to only celebrate the day in private settings, and the number celebrating publicly has gone down from around 70 to around 60 percent of the population.
Another question that has been asked in several surveys relates to the national anthem. According to the survey from 2013, a majority of 53 percent takes part in the singing of the national anthem on National Day. This means that only a small proportion of the population participates in the public celebrations without singing the national anthem. When comparing the data from 2013 with data from 1998, we find that the number of people taking part in the singing has remained stable over time. According to a KIFO survey from 1998, 52 percent of the total population sang the National anthem that particular year. This is almost exactly the same figure we found in 2013, indicating stable support for the National Day rituals even if there has been a small increase in the number of people that only celebrate the day privately.
The 2013 survey also had questions asking the respondents what view they have of the National Day celebration. As many as 88 percent of the population state that they think it is very important or fairly important to celebrate the day. The figure is higher than the percentage taking part in the public celebration, indicating that some want to take part but are impeded for practical reasons. To obtain a more nuanced picture of the attitudes we also included items formulated in a negative way. This showed that between five and 10 percent of the population agreed with statements like “it is irrelevant whether one celebrates the day or not”, “in Norway celebrating the national day is exaggerated”, and “it is inappropriate in these international times”. A reliability analysis shows that the four statements can be combined in an index measuring support for the celebration (Cronbach’s alpha > 0.80).
The three variables described above (participation in public rituals, singing of National anthem, and thinking the celebrations are important) will be used as dependent variables in regression analyses of factors explaining participation in National Day rituals. The aim is to find out if civil religion or religious nationalism are relevant perspectives to use. Only one of the dependent variables is an example of civil religion, namely singing the National anthem. The other two variables measure participating in and support for the public celebrations. As part of the analyses, I will examine whether the dependent variables are related to such explanatory factors as ethno-cultural and political-democratic national identity, church involvement on National Day, patriotism, chauvinism, and xenophobia. In addition, ordinary sociological variables such as gender, age, and education are included.
As outlined in the theoretical section, there are different types of nationalism and national identity. Some of these are open and inclusive and others are more exclusive by focusing on ethnic and cultural elements. The respondents were asked what characteristics they think are important for being truly Norwegian. I have selected two items that represent different types of national identity. The political-democratic item is represented by the statement “to be truly Norwegian it is important that one participates in political elections”. About 70 percent agrees fully or partly with this statement. The other statement is, “it is important to be a Christian to be truly Norwegian”. This question represents an ethno-cultural national identity by making a particular religious identity a prerequisite for being fully Norwegian. Only 13 percent of the population supported this statement. This focus on the religious aspect of national identity has declined since a similar survey was conducted by ISSP in 1994. Then around 20 percent of the population thought that being a Christian was important for being a true Norwegian. This indicator points more in the direction of religious nationalism since civil religion embraces people with different religious affiliations.
Church-involvement on National Day is measured by a variable describing the role of the local vicar in the celebrations. As mentioned above, 23 percent of the respondents state that the vicar in their local community actively takes part in the rituals. This variable is descriptive and does not ask if people think this is a good or a bad thing. However, a positive relationship between this variable and participation strengthens the argument for the civil religion perspective being relevant.
The 2013 survey deals with questions relating to national symbols, national rituals, and religion. Patriotism refers to a positive identification with the nation that accentuates the feeling of belongingness to the country one lives in. The concept of chauvinism is associated with the attitude that a state or its citizens is or are superior and better than others (Kosterman and Feshbach 1989
). While patriotism is something positive, chauvinism is referred to as something negative. Xenophobia is another concept that is often mentioned in connection with national identity. The concept refers to anxiety and skepticism towards people from other countries than one’s own (Knudsen 1997
All these concepts are addressed in the survey. The survey questions I use to measure patriotism, chauvinism, and xenophobia have been used in other international studies, such as the ISSP studies from 1994 and 2003. According to factor analyses, three pairs of questions can be used to constitute distinct dimensions in the material. Reliability analyses produce Cronbach alphas in the range of 0.63 to 0.72. The only scale that has weak alpha scores is chauvinism (0.40). The following sets of questions or statements are used to operationalize the theoretical concepts of patriotism, chauvinism, and xenophobia. The respondents were asked to indicate the degree of agreement-disagreement with the statements.
I am proud to be Norwegian.
I feel proud when my country is doing well in international sports.
The world would be a better place if people in other countries were more like us.
One should support one’s country, even if it behaves badly.
Immigrants are associated with crime.
Immigrants take jobs from people who were born in Norway.
By making indexes based on these pairs of questions we obtain variables with values from 1 to 9. The three indexes are positively correlated, with the strongest correlation between chauvinism and xenophobia (Pearson r 0.44) and the weakest between patriotism and xenophobia (r 0.25). By conducting regression analyses I will ascertain which factor contributes to explaining participation in and support of National Day rituals.
The analysis in Table 4
explains seven percent of the variance in the dependent variable. This reflects that only four out of nine variables have a significant effect. Church-involvement and patriotism have a positive effect on participation in public rituals. Xenophobia has a significant negative effect while none of the other variables related to nationalism have an effect. Of the sociological variables, only age has a significantly negative effect, meaning that the younger cohorts participate more than the older ones. This probably reflects the focus on children in the National Day rituals.
Turning to the singing of the National anthem (Table 5
), the model explains a little bit more of the variance. Six out of nine variables have a significant effect. Again, church-involvement and patriotism are the strongest predictors. This time, however, the variable indicating a political-democratic national identity also has a significantly positive effect. Young people more often than older people take part in the singing of the National anthem, and women are somewhat more active than men.
The last regression table (Table 6
) uses support for the National Day celebration as the dependent variable. This time the analysis explains as much as 25 percent of the variance in the dependent variable. However, only five out of nine variables have a significant effect. Patriotism is the one variable with the strongest explanatory power. Church involvement has a significant effect, as does political-democratic national identity. Again, the nationalism indicators have no effect. As in Table 5
, women are a little more supportive than men when it comes to National Day rituals. This time, age has a positive effect, meaning that the older cohorts are more positive than the younger ones. This contradicts the tendency seen in Table 4
and Table 5
. While young people take a more active part in the celebrations, older people are more inclined to support the idea of publicly celebrating the National Day.