By Panagiota Katsaveli,
Annually, a large number of students around the globe finish high school, turn 18 and start leading their adult lives in the unique way everyone chooses and sees fit. American movies and TV shows have long been romanticizing the traditions surrounding the ending of secondary education in the US, with prom and the actual graduation ceremony being merely some of the most prominent highlights. However, the US is not the sole country whose graduates are able to enjoy festivities that signal the end of an important chapter. Other countries have immaculate traditions about graduation and one of the most well-known instances takes place in Norway! Please, don’t tell me you haven’t heard about Russ!
“Russefeiringen”, as Norwegians call the celebration of the Russ, is mostly fun, but for foreigners, it may seem like a bizarre, month-long holiday. The Russ celebration is a traditional celebration for high school seniors in Norway during their final spring semester; the students that participate in the festivities are called ‘Russ’. The tradition lasts for almost a month, from sometime in mid-April till the 17th of May, the Norwegian Constitution Day. It involves a series of parties, music festivals, harmless (or maybe harmful) dares and extreme alcohol consumption. The modern Norwegian “russefeiring” dates back to 1905. The purpose of this graduation festival is to celebrate the completion of 13 years of school and the entrance onto the real world, the start of adult life. Russ is viewed by many as a passage for a young Norwegian citizen -a chance to relax after years of compulsory schooling before entering the ‘real world’!
The Russ period, which takes place right before the final exam season for senior students, consists of partying, alcohol consumptions and many wild celebrations as a way to commemorate the end of a beautiful era and a new beginning. Students start planning for their Russ even three years in advance, they form groups of 20-25 individuals and occupy buses that are equipped appropriately for the special occasion. Some have sound systems, speakers, intricate lighting, or dance floors added to them and their average cost goes up to $120.000 (or even $350.000); Russ buses are recognized by everyone in the community. Most of the parties take place in and around the buses, as hired drivers take the students to the various festivals organized through the country.
One of the best-known music festivals of the Russ period in Norway happens at the theme park “Kongeparken”. Just near the city of Stavanger on Norway’s west coast, the park is turned into a three-day concert venue with approximately 13.500 attendees on a yearly basis, ready to give it their all!
One of the most important and characteristic features of the Norwegian Russ tradition involves the clothing attire of its participants. The students are typically dressed in a pair of overalls who used to be mainly in red or blue color depending on taste, but as time went by the different colors symbolized the area of studies they would pursue in university. Specifically, red which is the most common popular color refers to general studies, such as media, art, history, music, mathematics, physics etc., blue is for administration studies, black for vocational apprentices, green for the agricultural field and occasionally white is worn by athletic and healthcare students. Moreover, the tradition cap that completes the uniform is a famous symbol of the Russ. “Russelue” (russe cap) has been an integral piece of the Russ outfit since 1905 when it was utilized in graduation ceremonies as a representation of the students’ acceptances into universities. Now, it does not appear to be so widely used and has been replaces, at least in the Oslo area, by bandanas and hoodies with the name and logo of each group printed on them.
Besides the endless drinking and partying, the Russ includes dares initiated by students that can sometimes blur the lines between harmful and harmless. This key concept of the dares is a kind of competition for students to win ‘knots’ to place on their festive attire. The dares can range from wearing bread on your feet for a whole day to as far as walking naked on a bridge. As one can understand, some dares can go really far beyond the limits, so an effort has been made in recent years to strive for dares that encourage students to realize good deeds. Some may include going for an STD exam or buying a meal for the homeless. The irony of the whole situation is that Russ was moved before the end of the academic year, instead of after, in order to tone down the whole event, but instead it has been getting wilder and longer as years pass.
Overall, the Norwegian Russ is a chance for each year’s high school graduates to celebrate their achievements, while simultaneously ending a chapter in a memorable manner and entering the seriousness that is usually associated with adult life. Even though, it can be considered by many people worldwide as an irresponsible dangerous tradition, we have to take into consideration that everyone has been a teenager who wanted to have the opportunity to party endlessly with their friends, so what better and perhaps safer way to do it than a recognized national tradition? This does not obviously mean that we do not recognize the misfortunes or accidents that may occur.
- Business Insider, Norwegian teens celebrate a bizarre, month-long holiday full of drinking, sex, and wild dares — here’s what it’s like. Available here.
- The local, Norwegian Expression of the day: Russetiden. Available here.