Residence: Vail, CO
Date of Performance/Collection: April 24, 2021
Primary Language: Norwegian
Other Language(s): English
Informant: So Russefeiring is a celebration of graduates from high school… I guess high school, sort of… The age is kind of in between high school and college I think, ‘cause most of them are 18 or 19. Um, but, you know, they’re ending a three-year academic education. And so they celebrate in the week before Independence Day, where they, um… They wear these special suits or coats through that whole time that they decorate and draw on and have their friends sign them and all kinds of crafty stuff. And then they have graduation hats that have this long string coming down. And during this week they have all these obstacle things that they have to do, and everything that they do gives them a little, kind of… Treat, or an award that they tie onto their hats. So let’s say you kiss the president of a school, then you get a knot in the string on your hat… And then if you drink a whole bottle of champagne in one, big gulp, um… Then you get a champagne uh–what’s it called…? The cork. And you tie that onto the string or into the hat… Like silly things, you know?
Interviewer: Can you talk a little bit about the different colors of the uniforms?
Informant: Yeah so if you went to the schools where you, um, studied economy and finance… Then you were called blåruss… Like “blue russ,” and your hat’s blue. If you were into the STEM subjects, then your hat is red. And traditionally, if you… Went to a school that wasn’t strictly academic, like a trade school, then your hat would be black… I think you can study language, like Norwegian, at both schools, so it just depends on what school you went to.
Interviewer: Can you talk about the bus culture?
Informant: So their last year, the year that they graduate, the students start early planning for their graduation and for this one week. So a lot of kids will get together and they will purchase a bus and then they will decorate the bus… It’s kind of a van more than a bus though. I would call it a van… And they will decorate it on the outside. They will usually ask a younger student who is not graduating if they will be willing to drive them around for that week.
Interviewer: And can you talk a bit about the drinking culture during that final week?
Informant: During that week the school knows this is happening. I mean, you still have to go to class, but people don’t take it that seriously. Because once Indepence Day has happened, everyone is studying. ‘Cause all the exams are after Independence Day. So before that it’s not really taken seriously. People are probably drunk in class. You don’t really go home that week… You sleep on the bus. You sleep wherever. You go home to shower every once in a while. Maybe.
INFORMANT’S RELATIONSHIP TO THE PIECE:
Informant: Our bus was both boys and girls… And I would imagine there were around ten of us, I think… You know, cause it costs money. We had to buy the bus and it costs money to fix it up a little bit… We didn’t have group names or get pins. I think a lot of people do now, but we didn’t.
Interviewer: Did you ever hear about your parents’ Russefeiring?
Informant: No, ‘cause none of them went to school like I did, you know? My mom didn’t go to that kind of school. And my dad, back then, he went to a sort of trade school, and he was much older when he did that. So they didn’t celebrate that way. Cause none of my parents were academic.
Russefeiring is a celebration, commemorating the end of the students’ studies. It is also a rite of passage into adulthood. During this one week, debauchery and mischief are encouraged. The students become trickster figures, of a sort, as they act impulsively, break rules, and emphasize humor and fun above all. The students are in a liminal place, on the threshold between adolescence and adulthood, as they are not quite students any longer, but also have not yet graduated. They are unstable figures, as demonstrated by the mischief they enact. Russefeiring also seems to be a sort of catharsis before final exams. One might even consider it a catharsis preceding adulthood. Once they have graduated, they must find jobs or dive more seriously into their studies at professional schools (ex. medical school). Russefeiring is one last teenage-hurrah; it is a week of instability before the students have to become stable adults.
Sande, Allan. “The Norwegian ‘russefeiring’. The Use of Alcohol as a Ritual in the ‘rite of Passage’ to Adulthood.” Nordisk Alkohol- & Narkotikatidskrift : NAT, vol. 17, no. 5-6, SAGE Publications, 2000, pp. 340–54, doi:10.1177/1455072500017005-603.