Two weeks back, I wrote on this, “Crazy Norwegians, Rødruss Part 1” and did promise to write second part of this story, a Norwegian celebration that should be coming to an end soon. Actually, the 17th May, marks the end of this and I just can´t wait to see what happens on that day.
Like many children, I have been collecting russ cards, which is an important part of this celebration. I have about 56 russ cards, collected from various cities in Norway namely Kristiansand, Stavanger, Bergen and Oslo. One of the cards reads, “Whoever said that money can´t buy happiness, simply didn´t know where to go for shopping”. Thanks to the weather, it is spring, so the russ have been celebrating through late night making a lot of noise and of course they are not freezing.
My Stavanger girlfriends were quick to point out that major celebrations will happen before the end of the festivity. Luda Criss, an American rapper and actor as well as Busta Rhymes were to have a great gig at Stavanger. “It is going to be a great celebration and of course we can drink so much and enjoy ourselves, you are welcome to attend, ” said one of the girls three weeks back.
Same excitement in Oslo, Norway´s capital city, the russ here are more wild and noticeable, they are everywhere, a bit loud and many of them are in small groups. I have been stopping them in most cases just to find out the kind of crazy things they have done this far.
“We are sad that it is soon coming to an end, the truth is we have had a lot of fun. We have walked the city with bare breasts, we have crawled like small babies on major streets, driven cars with loud music while naked, we have had arguments with our teachers and almost abused them, we have had sex by the beaches, we have basically done so many crazy stuff, smoked and drunk ourselves foolishly. We wish we could have more time for this,” said a group of russ in Oslo.
I saw a group of 8 russ crawling on the roads, while the rest of us foreigners had our eyes glued on them, the Norwegians did not bother at all. This should tell you how much it is a shock for us to witness the various things that have been going on while Norwegians know that this is just another part an annual rite of passage.
It is documented that in Norway, 18 is both the age limit for buying alcohol and acquiring a driver’s license. Therefore, these growing festivities also led to increased alcohol consumption, and in the 70s the tradition of buying old cars, vans, buses and even lorries and painting them in the same colours as the overalls became common.
According to Wikipedia “Some of the crazy actions are sometimes criticized because they can involve illegal acts, such as public nudity or public sexual intercourse, outright assault and possibly self-harming actions such as consuming large amounts of alcohol in a short span of time (earning a beer cap or wine cork). Other more benign tasks exist, such as putting a for sale sign on a police car, kissing a person of the same sex (pink feather), or spending the night at a teacher’s house and making him/her breakfast in the morning, all without being noticed. Due to criticism in media, many of the russ knots are removed and replaced by other knots every year to decrease its severe impact on the students. Some of the previous knots have been physically dangerous when it involves drinking 24 bottles of beer within 24 hours, or place half a box of snus under ones lip for a certain period of time. This can lead to alcohol poisoning and severe brain damage.”
Norwegians are quick to tell me “Not all the russ go through this craziness.” Wikipedia has it that, “There are others who, due to personal or religious reasons, do not consume alcohol, and therefore object to the nature of many of the celebrations, which contribute to its image as the “treukersfylla” (“the three week binge”). These students do not partake in common festivities to the same degree that other russ do and sometimes create their own events such as the “kristenruss” (“christian russ”). You are probably asking, so what do they do instead? These arrange their own kind of Gospel concerts, go for mountain climbing, cabining, barbecuing or even conduct private Bible studies.
Great, so now we all know that Norwegian students are celebrating completion of 13 years of school. It is a tradition that has been there since 1905 and of course going through transformation with upcoming generations. I asked a friend, “So why are people celebrating and his response was, ” There is every reason for russ to celebrate, you guys in Africa are boring and that is why you do not see the essence of all this.” Ok! The irony of the whole celebration is here, These students have not sat for their final exams yet!!!!
After a month of partying and all the crazy things they have been doing, now they go
back to school and start their exams for 2 to 3 weeks. This caught me by surprise? What do you mean you have your exams immediately after 17th of May? After all this, will you remember anything, and does this have an effect on your final exams?” It is a question I have been asking quite a number of the russ.
“Yes we have our exams soon. We party foolishly and get back to business and we pass our exams. Even during this time we still go to school to study. Maybe we do not perform very well, but we try.” Said one of the russ girls in Stavanger.
A friend of mine tells me, it has been a great concern and there is a debate on this, while others believe that the one month partying has a great effect on the final grades others do not agree with this. “The truth is, many do not perform to their best, though we rarely have students failing their final exams,” he said.
It is noted that “traditionally, these had all been taking place in late May and early June. The idea was that forcing the pupils to prepare for exams instead of partying would reduce the extent of the problem. This had no noticeable effect, however, and resistance from pupils’ organizations moved the exams back, with the argument that the only effect was to have pupils sacrifice grades for partying.”
“Russefeiring is a long-standing tradition and a major cultural phenomenon in Norway. Apart from being a celebration of the imminent end of 12 or 13 years of compulsory schooling, it has also become a rite of passage into adulthood, and a farewell to classmates from the upper secondary school who will now go their separate ways in search for jobs or higher education. It is therefore an extremely important period in the lives of most Norwegian adolescents.”
My take is, there is too big a room left for imagination and speculations. I sit down and imagine what will happen if the same is to be implemented in Kenya. Imagine every year in September countrywide, just before the K.C.S.E exams, one month of wild partying and soon thereafter, exams. Try and picture the aftermath!! Ponder about this!
Do have a pleasant weekend!!!