In my last post I promised to write about the parade of final year high school students on the 17th of May. This is a really curious part of Norwegian culture, called “Russefeiring“, Russ-celebration – the participants are called Russ

The celebrations start on the evening before the 1st of May and end 17 days later, on the 17th of May. During this time, the Russ wear a kind of overall, and the colour of the overall is related to which subject they study in high school (or aim to study afterwards): red for those continuing to higher education and blue for business/economics/management. Then there’s also white (medical/social studies), black (engineering) and green (agricultural) – but I have never seen these colours. I have seen one Russ in an overall that had 2 colours though, guess he couldn’t make up his mind! They wear the overalls continuously and are not supposed to wash them… In the photo below you can see how far that goes – normally in such a band you either wear the band uniform or a bunad, but this Russ girl is wearing her Russ uniform 🙂 

During the 17 days of celebration, they basically party a lot and they drive around in vehicles in the colour of their uniform, usually some old van. They play music really loud, and yell and whistle at other people from their van… Below you can see 2 examples, these photos are from the Russ parade on the 17th of May. We often saw the fake ambulance (called “ubalance”, inbalance) in the photo on the left, as one of our neighbours belonged to that group. If you enlarge the photo on the right, you can see the Russ are giving out something to the kids watching the parade…

What they give out are the so called Russekort, a kind of business card they all carry around. They give them to each other, but younger children are most interested in them, they collect them. It was incredible to watch, the Russ were throwing around many of these cards and the ground was full of them. Within a minute, all the young children had picked them up and there were NONE left. I did find 2 forgotten ones the day after though… As you can see, these are also in the colour of their uniform. 

The contact info looks fake, and they add some “funny”/silly quote. The one on the black (blue?) one says: “I need guys in the same way a banana needs hairspray” – some real wisdom there 😉 In the photos below you can see the eagerness of children who collect them…. The boy on the right had an ENORMOUS pile of them, but would still run for new ones.

In the photo below you can see some other parts of the tradition. They all wear a whistle around their neck, and often whistle at each other or just at passers-by on the street. The cap he’s wearing is like a graduation hat, and it has their Russ name (nick name) written on the front bit. If you enlarge the photo you can see there is a bit of string on the back with all kinds of things attached to it. These are tokens you collect for doing certain things, for example if you drink a bottle of wine in 20 minutes you get a cork. I can’t see what the tokens of this guy are, except for a part of a folding ruler, but I haven’t been able to find out what that means. There is an endless list of tasks that earn you tokens and some are quite funny – like spending the night at a teachers house and make him/her breakfast, all without being noticed, now that’s a challenge!

The parade was a lot of fun, they all had themes and some groups dressed up, like this girl in the back of a disco van 🙂

Quite an impressive tradition, that actually goes back more than a 100 years. I guess for the students it’s just a nice excuse to party for 17 days, but it’s fascinating nonetheless!

I miss the blue skies from these photos, the weather has changed and now it’s just rain, rain, rain, snow (!!), and last Thursday temperatures went down to 3 degrees… brrr. Perfect weather for locking myself into my office and writing my thesis though! This is why I am not writing on my blog very much, and it will stay like that until July, sorry!

3 thoughts on “Russ

  1. I loved reading this! 🙂 I never stayed long enough in Norway to experience Russ, but I do have my dad’s Russekort somewhere, and it had something silly on it like “Never do anything you can’t do riding a bicycle”…

    I did share Russ for a bit when I visited my family back in 1988, as my cousin was celebrating Russ, and she *lived* in her red dungarees!!

  2. Thanks Helga! That’s so cool that you have your dad’s Russekort! I like his quote 🙂

    They do really *live* in their dungarees indeed, hehe. I found it all very fascinating, we don’t have anything like that back home (in the Netherlands).

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