Tag Archives: students

RUSSEFEIRING

MAIN PIECE: 

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.

REFLECTION: 

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.

ANNOTATION:

Further reading:

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.

High School Senior Pranks

Main Piece

My informant explains that her old high school has an age-old rival high school in the same city. She remembers that the graduating seniors of every year would perform a prank on the rival school, and the rival school would do the same. These pranks were usually harmless, but sometimes costly to recover from. She remembers that in her senior year of high school, a few seniors from her school dyed the rival school’s pool purple, which was her school’s colors. The rival school, looking for revenge, threw two queen-sized mattresses in her school’s pool, which absorbed a large amount of water, making it impossible to lift them out of the pool without a crane. She laughed as she recounted these memories to me.

Background

My informant is a college student studying Business. She was school spirited in high school and claims to have always participated in senior activities with her classmates. She explains that nobody she asked could remember how the rivalry between the two high schools started. However, according to my informant, it is not hard to draw conclusions. Both schools were located in the same small suburb of Los Angeles, ranked academically high, and held strong sports teams. She concludes that these factors may have caused, in her own words, this “friendly, but not-so-friendly” rivalry between the two high schools. She explains that in addition to the senior pranks, there would be one school day out of the entire academic year dedicated to pep rallies and parties to encourage the football team to beat the rival school later that day. She explains that these schools were rivals in every way, but her favorite part of the rivalry was the senior pranks.

Context

These senior pranks are performed by high school seniors. Faculty members knew about the pranks and were aware of the plans for the pranks, but never interfered with them unless they saw a safety issue or a health hazard that could possibly result from the pranks. Usually, these pranks were performed later in the year, when most seniors suffered from “senioritis” and would rather organize pranks than do any more schoolwork. 

My Thoughts

I attended the same high school as my informant, and can attest to the large-scale rivalry between these two high schools. The pranks that the seniors performed were generally creative and inventive, but the pranks were not as important as the act of organizing these pranks. Students came together after school to meticulously plan their pranks to perfection. This goes to show that the prank itself was not important. The value of this tradition came from the act of coming together. 

High school seniors are in a liminal period. They are transitioning from their identity as a student to their identity as an adult, whether they enter the workforce or go off to college. Senior pranks are a form of rite of passage. According to French ethnographer Arnold van Gennep, practical jokes and pranks such as senior pranks are performed during these liminal times to ease the tensions and anxieties that come with the transition. Thus, we can conclude that senior pranks were a way to smoothen the transition from student to adult for high school seniors. 

Dutch/Tulip Festivals Supporting Schools in Redlands, California (and Related Rhyme/Song)

Informant Context:

Meryl is a descendent of Dutch immigrants who immigrated to America around the 1850s. After living in Michigan, she relocated to Redlands, California, where she attended and later taught at a school supported by the Christian Reformed Churches in the area. The school held annual Dutch/Tulip Festivals as fundraisers. Meryl participated in these festivals as a student. She went on to teach her students the associated songs, skits, etc. while working there.

The interviewer spoke with Meryl over the phone.

Transcript:

MERYL: So I grew up in Redlands—Redlands Christian School, attended um… Christian Reformed Church is where I—was where my parents went, and in Redlands there are two Christian Reformed Churches, one Reformed Church, and one Protestant Reformed Church, which is a little more on the Dutch, th—Dutch side. Uh, the Protestant Church also had a school. And so… Redlands… and I went to the Christian School there, and… all supported Red— of all those churches, the four churches, uh… supported the Redlands Christian School. Still do. And there were many Dutch background people, so they, um… in order to support the school they started having—I don’t know just when it started, but—uh, started having Dutch festivals. And I remember, uh, singing little songs, and… heh… at the, at the Dutch festivals. Um… and then, later I taught ‘em to… to… th—the kids that I was teaching. [rustles pages, reading] Um… many… let’s see… many Dutch background people had Tu—Tulip festivals to raise money for the school. ‘Cause they… [unintelligible] always need money. Um…

INTERVIEWER: What would the songs be about? 

MERYEL: Well, let’s see… Well, first of all they had all the… the chorale—you know, they’re kind of like *chorale*—they’re [unintelligible] you know, half notes. [rustles pages] And uh… other songs. But it… the for Tulip Festival. I taught my kids this one little ditty that… [begins laughing] Heh-heh! It was—let’s see, it was… [begins speaking in rhythm (no melody), puts on an accent (t’s and th’s become d’s)]

“Katrina, my darling,

Come sit by my side 

And I’ll told you some things 

That will open your eyes—eyes [unintelligible]

I love you so much 

[Bette(?)]… w—with the love that I got,

That I want… and I’m going to ask you, “Won’t you be my *frau*?”

Frau is like… um, [unintelligible]. She would sing—the girl would sing: [resumes]

Why [seen(?)] yourself, Charlie 

To speak out like that 

Although it is nice what you say, 

And I love you so much with the love that I got

That I’ll be your frau right away.

Oh, ja! [thought that was(?)] fine, 

Char—Katrina, she told me she’s going to be mine… 

And, you know, that’s the chorus. Yeah, heh—*anyway*… and the kids would sing. I taught that to my… my 4th graders later. Um… anyway… 

INTERVIEWER: Did you teach at the same school?

MERYL: Uh, yeah, I’m getting to that. [laughs] Y—Y—let’s see… [if(?)] I can read it [reading] all—so all these churches, these four churches, supported the Redlands Christian School. Many Dutch background people… uh… had, had decided to have a Tulip Festival to bring in money for the school, ‘cause the schools always need money. And uh… so they, uh, they… the *women* mainly, got together [laughs softly], And um… k—kinda started when, when I was in school there. And it’s been kind of a tradition. And later, um… it was still going on when I taught there. Um… they had um… they had uh, uh… dishes of, *food* dishes, and cookies, and all kinds of stuff that was Dutch, and the kids would dress up, or… in uh, long skirts and wear, uh, Dutch—gif you had Dutch shoes, the wooden shoes…

INTERVIEWER: Clogs?

MERYL: [Me and(?)] my parents, they sent for some Grand Rapids, Michigan, where they have… uh, and Holland, Michigan, where they have more Tulip Festivals and… a lot of tulips in Holland. 

INTERVIEWER: Right, so… that’s what I was going to ask. So this specific one that you’re talking about is just the Redlands one, but I was…

MERYL: [Yes(?)]

INTERVIEWER: I was going to ask you are there other ones? 

MERYL: Oh, [yeah(?)]

INTERVIEWER: Other Tulip Festivals around the US? And it sounds like Holland Michigan, there are…

MERYL: Yeah, yeah… and [El Far(?)] California, they have a—a lot of Dutchman there too. 

INTERVIEWER: And they have similar festivals and everything.

MERYL: Yes. The Christian schools do.

INTERVIEWER: But this one was… 

MERYL: Yeah, they… they kind of support the Dutch background. 

INTERVIEWER: Oh, so—so it’s always attached to a school, it sounds like? It’s less of like… like a… 

MERYL: Yeah, it’s—it’s mainly I th—uh, yeah it kind of supports the schools. Helps to support the schools. Uh… Dutch costumes, [rustles papers] and wooden shoes… the wooden shoes are very uncomfortable.

INTERVIEWER: [laughs]

MERYL: You wear about three pairs of socks inside ‘em just so… so you don’t get blisters. I had some. I don’t know where they went. Heh-heh… 

INTERVIEWER: [joins laughing]

MERYL: *Anyway*… 

Informant Commentary:

Meryl mainly connected these festivals to the religious and educational institutions they supported financially. The generations through which this folk practice is passed are not familial generations or ethnic ones, but rather teacher to student generations. Meryl occupied both of those roles, as a student who later became a teacher. The Dutch/Tulip Festivals are also sites of other folklore such as folk songs and folk food, similarly passed down using highly intentional means, for a specific purpose, in a designated classroom setting.

Analysis:

This tradition is an interesting one, mainly because it employs folklore as a means to fundraise for an institution. This conflicts with the usual role of folklore as a set of artistic practices coming into being and perpetuating outside of institutions. The folklore invoked by these festivals (clogs, traditional dress, songs, etc.) likely came about that way too, but were given a new purpose and a new folk group by these majority Dutch churches and schools.

Boston University, Trash Can Punch

Title: Boston University, Trash Can Punch

Category: Recipe/Food

Informant: Julianna K. Keller

Nationality: American, caucasian

Age: 20

Occupation: Student

Residence: 325 West Adams Blvd./ Los Angeles, CA 90007

Date of Collection: 4/09/18

Description:

“Trash Can Punch” is a mixed alcoholic beverage made in the fraternity houses at Boston University. The trash cans used are the large grey janitorial trashcans that are often used in cafeterias and janitorial carts. The trashcans are bought or cleaned thoroughly before use (one can hope). “Trash Can Punch” has no real recipe but follows the same general guidelines. There is usually a strong fruity component or flavor, and then a variety of different forms of alcohol. Each fraternity or house serving “Trash Can Punch” will usually have its own recipe and sometimes color. All guests are welcome to drink it at the party and is served by the host or resident of the house throwing the party.

Context/Significance:

Ms. Keller visited Boston University her senior year of high school to catch up with a friend and gain firsthand insight about the university as she considered where she might study after graduation. Her visit just happened to fall over halloween weekend and her friend invited her to go out with a group of them for the occasion.

When they got to the party, held at a fraternity house, Julianna asked where she could find drinks being served. The girls hosting her visit pointed to the trash can in the corner where it was filled close to the top with a sweet orange alcoholic mixture. When she asked what was in the drink, no one was really abel to tell her an answer.

One of the girls said they were made from recipes. That each fraternity house had their own mixture and color and was only served at their house in particular. Another friend agreed and that the remaining contents from the party was poured into a bucket and saved in the fridge for use at the future party as a base to go off of (kind of like a rue for gumbo or starter for sour-dough bread.) A separate girl told her that ht house will only fill the trash can half way and then as party guests arrive they bring alcohol with them to add to the trash can so no one can ever really tell what’s inside.

Personal Thoughts:

Sounds dangerous to me, but who am I to judge? This seems like a form of half passive bearers of tradition, half active bearers of tradition. No one is explicitly taught how to make “Trash Can Punch,” but underclassman seem to hear these stories of how it’s made and perhaps learn them from fraternity histories during the pledging process. When these students reach the level of upperclassman, they then attempt to make these recipes themselves and alter them themselves in the process. The recipes have undoubtably changed over the years but remain somewhat iconic to each fraternity in some way.

The Author of Ben-Hur

The rumor/myth: “The author of Ben-Hur, whose name is something Lane I think? (The only book ever written in Crawfordsville, Indiana.) His house is in Crawfordsville, and they say that on the grounds of this house is like every tree that’s like native to Indiana. I don’t actually know if it’s true though, I heard it from my 5th grade teacher Mrs. Harris. She was really weird.”

The informant, originally from Crawfordsville, told me this about the author of Ben-Hur, actually named Lew Wallace. He has never actually read the novel, but his teacher told their class about Wallace’s house in Crawfordsville. I think she told 5th graders this story to give them pride about their hometown, as it is a very small rural town that isn’t very famous to people that aren’t from there. Its truth value doesn’t seem to matter, and one could even say that it’s a sacred truth to the inhabitants of Crawfordsville. I imagine Mrs. Harris would be a bit offended if anyone challenged her on the verity of this statement, since it represents the mythology of Crawfordsville.