Ever since we arrived in Tromsø, we’ve been seeing teenagers walking around dressed like this:
The overalls come in red, blue, red and white, black, and green and they are a part of the russfeiring, or russ celebration, a traditional celebration capping secondary school education. Think about the rowdy graduation night parties that we all had or were at least were aware of when we graduated, but extended over the final two weeks of high school and made much, much, much more elaborate.
The russfeiring involves wearing these overalls, which are colored to match your chosen line of study. (red for general studies, blue for business focus, black for vocational study, white for healthcare, green for agriculture) They are to be worn from sunup to sundown, without being washed, from May 1st to May 17th. During this time, the students party virtually non-stop, drink, act out, and basically act like teenagers in the most outsized way possible.
During the russfeiring, the russ will buy cheap vans or busses, paint them to match their chosen field of study, outfit them with massive sound system and basically turn them into rolling party centers. They also accumulate what are known as “knots” for specific acts and behaviors. For example:
- Spending a night in a tree (earns a stick from the tree)
- Eating a Big Mac in two bites (earns a piece of the wrapping)
- Drinking a bottle of wine in 20 minutes (earns the wine cork)
- Crawling through a super market while barking and biting customers’ legs (earns a dog biscuit)
- Spending a school day crawling on hands and knees (earns a toy shoe)
- Spending the entire russ period sober (earns a fizzy drink cork)
- Drinking 24 beers in 24 hours(girls) 12 hour (boys)
- Have sex in the woods
- Have sex with 17 different people in 17 days from 1.May to 17 May(Norwegian national day)
- Go for a swim before the 1. of May popsicle
- Ask random people in a mall if they can lend you a condom (earns the condom)
- Break up with a random 16 year old very public.
- Run over a local bridge or from the school to the center or similar place naked.
- Sit in a round about with a sign that says “We’ll have drink if you honk your horn!”
- Host an aerobic class at the local pub and get at least ten people to join.
More than a bit hedonistic, but that’s what high school is for, right? Youthful indiscretion and all that. The prevalence of promiscuity aside, I feel kinda cheated that the end of my high school days wasn’t anything like this. It sounds like a ton of fun, and it’s all sanctioned by adults and society, for the most part. Schools have lists of upwards of 100 “knots” and if you perform 50 to 70 of them, you can tack on a few more elaborate ones to achieve “eliteruss” status. These include getting a tattoo of the year of your russ, dying your hair the color of your russ, or giving over 1000 kroner (about $160) to charity. It’s all very odd, yet in a way it makes sense. For such a reserved people, it’s not entirely surprising that they get a few weeks to act out in the most public and extreme ways possible.
Again, I feel a bit cheated. All we did after graduation was go to a few bonfire parties and skip school.