Har du Russekort?

Remember that mysterious event I keep referring to from Norway? Russefeiring, or Russ for short?  Here’s your chance to learn all about it from an outsider’s perspective.  Most of what I learned about Russ came from Norwegians Sara and I befriended on our trip (shoutout to my favorite Norwegian, Eivind, for answering countless questions with the utmost patience), but I am not claiming to know much info about the tradition.  As with all my posts, this is merely a stream of consciousness regarding my observations.

Russefeiring is, essentially, a nation-wide party where teens in their last few weeks of secondary school wear crimson-colored overalls, drink 24/7, and complete challenges, all while studying for & undergoing their final exams.  It generally starts in the last week of April and continues until Norway’s Constitution Day, on 17 May.  Sound like a lot to handle? Sara and I thought so, too.  All the same, it would be incredible to have weeks of partying with close friends while still in school…and have I mentioned it’s legal? The Norwegian government has put certain sanctions into place to maintain as much safety and order as possible, but since 18 is the age limit for alcohol purchase many Russ activities are perfectly within the legal boundaries.  If Russ kids do buy a bus/van/car and use it to party during this period, however, they do need to have a non-Russ driver who is completely sober the entire time.  To me, making the festivities safer makes so much more sense than banning them entirely.  The Norwegian government has, at times, tried to put a stop to Russ by moving exam dates forward and such, but to no avail.  It seems that enforcing safety rather than complete prohibition is the best course of action.

Back to the Russ kids.   Not only do they save thousands of Norwegian kroner to buy and decorate their party buses for this time, they also get pretty legit outfits and “business” cards.  Traditional Russ overalls (loosely translated to russebukse) are red, though we saw black, blue, and green as well.  Eivind explained that these symbolize different branches of study-general studies are red (though specialized students can certainly purchase red overalls as well), while agriculture might be green and business or financial students don blue.  No matter the color, every Russ makes their overalls unique-quite literally, putting their mark on them.  Russ kids decorate their own russebukse with patches, drawings, and other embellishments; as Russefeiring continues, other teens will add to their friends’ pants until every standard russebukse becomes one-of-a-kind.  They also get Russekort, or Russ cards, to hand out to other Russ and younger kids.  Calling cards of sorts, russekort have the students’ photo, (fake) number & address, and a slogan.  Consider it a senior yearbook tagline, but 1000 times better.  Sara and I had a grand time collecting Russ cards from the metro and sidewalks, and I even managed to get one from a Russ kid after having to hold up my end of a bargain with Sara.  Let’s just say I learned about 5 words in Norwegian, and all of them were used to get that Russ card.

The clothes and cards sound pretty legit on their own, but what really separated Russefeiring from other senior celebrations (for me, anyway) was the challenges & festivals Russ kids complete.  Thousands of Russ will gather at festivals-I’m not sure if they’re exclusively for Russefeiring, or if the teens just happen to go-and party in even larger numbers than usual.  These challenges cover quite literally everything, from benign pranks to shocking acts.  Some of my favorites, in no particular order, are below:

  • spend an entire school day crawling on your hands & knees
  • spend an entire school day in only your underwear
  • jump into the fjord before 1 May (sound familiar?)
  • eat a Big Mac in 2 bites
  • have (safe) sex with 7 people in 7 days
  • buy a condom using only body gestures
  • place a “for sale” sign on a police car
  • have sex with a statue
  • have sex with 1-3 different people outside

Did I mention each of these acts needs to be witnessed by at least two other Russ in order for teens to successfully complete the challenge?  Yes, even sex.  Though I can imagine when you’re partying with your closest friends for three weeks straight you become even closer.  Each challenge, once completed, earns Russ a knot for their caps.  Sex outside will earn you a pine cone (with 3 people earns you a gold-painted pine cone, holla), while downing a bottle of wine in 20 minutes earns you the cork from the bottle.  There are around 300 challenges to complete during Russefeiring, all set forth by the official Russ board.  Let me repeat: there is an OFFICIAL RUSS BOARD.  Norwegians, if you’re still reading at this point, how does one get to work on this board and select challenges?  Because I volunteer.  I accept payment in Russekort and Bulmer’s.

I think that about covers everything I learned about Russefeiring, the greatest pre-graduation party I have witnessed to date.  If you have any stories of your own russefeiring, or favorite challenges I haven’t even heard of yet, I’d love to hear them!  The comment box is below; you know what to do!

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