Russ – The revelling Norwegian high school graduates

Since this is a blog about habits and tradition in Norway, I will tell you about something very unique (Ok, besides in Denmark then). We don’t have the prom tradition, but that does not mean high school graduations aren’t celebrated. The Russ festivities officially take place from April 25 and climax on May 17, Norway’s Constitution Day. Graduating students, clad in red or blue overalls depending on their line of study, tend to spend this time in a non-stop debauch that sparks debate virtually. Each year, as a new year of Russ, hits the streets of Norway intending to celebrate longer, better, and louder than the Russ of the previous year, the debate over “how out of control the Russ of this year is, compared to the good old days” resurfaces with them.

My niece is Russ this year!

The tradition goes back to the 1700s, at a time when no universities existed in Norway, and Norwegians would attend the University of Copenhagen to study alongside Danish students. To be enrolled at the university, students had to pass the Examen Artium. After completing their examinations, horns were placed on their foreheads and they were ridiculed by older students. When the results from the exams were ready, the students would participate in a ceremony called Examen Depositions, in which they were called up to the examinator: if they had passed the test, their horns would be removed, as a sign of wisdom and subjugation of the wild animal within. From then on, the young persons had the right to call themselves students.

Our Crown Prince Haakon was a Russ too of course!

The modern Norwegian Russ tradition dates back to 1905 when the red russ caps were introduced. The caps were initially only used by boys and were inspired by German students, who in 1904 wore red caps when they visited Norway. In 1916, blue caps were introduced at the Oslo Handelsgymnasium, a high school specializing in economics. One Russ tradition includes knots dangling from their caps, earned by executing outrageous acts of some sort witnessed by their peers. Most of the 101 knot-earning challenges are relatively innocent, if inane. It could be spending the night in a tree, eating breakfast in a traffic turn, reading pornography in public, kissing a policeman, orbiting a freshman in the leg.

Russ buses (Russel)
In the older days, russ often traveled around in an open lorry, either used as-is or with a do-it-yourself hut added to the cargo area. Today it is common for several friends to join together to buy a russ car (mostly small cities and densely populated areas), or a bus (mostly in Oslo and the surrounding areas), painted in their respective russ color.

My youngest son’s bus was named Sinnataggen (The famous ‘angry boy’) based on the theme from Vigeland Park.

In the russ vehicle, modern tradition requires an expensive stereo both on the roof and inside the vehicle (the largest systems allowed can have forty speakers which can generate over sixty thousand watts), bus sweaters, bus lighters/key strings, bus caps, and a bus song. It is also common to have some sort of theme for the interior and name/concept.

My oldest son’s bus was named Mirage and they won the ‘best music bus of the year’ award! In the picture on the right side, you see the speakers arranged on both sides of the bus for a concert.

Russ cards (Russekort)
Most russ have personalized calling cards featuring their name, their photograph, and a short slogan. These cards are swapped with other russ and handed out to children or family members; for many children, collecting huge amounts of russ cards is an important activity on May 17.

If you don’t remember the Vigeland Park – the theme of my youngest son’s bus, check my posts from the park by clicking here and here!

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  1. proms are boring! russ are cool! I really wanted to be a russ actually. But too bad I am quite old for that. Savi and Odd havent been a Russ before but my boss was a Russ.

  2. Russ is rather genuinely exciting tradition & 100% fun guaranteed for young adults than our boring tradition of promenade back home I guess!

    have a peaceful week ahead renny!


  3. I was a Russ in 1989 as foreign exchange student to Skeisvang in Haugesund. Every year on May 17th I still pull out my Norwegian flag with pride!

  4. what an interesting post! It’s great to know about Culture for sure. I like the concept!

  5. russ is a graduating highschool student, that’s cool tradition or term being used by norwegian… i adore the buses and the way its celebrated…

    anyways ren, can i call u that? thanks for always visiting my site eventhough its a “tagalog” or filipino entry i know u dont understand that but still your visiting it… thanks so much =)

  6. wow, sounds like one fabulously good time. i love reading cultural things like this. see, blogging is educational. i learn more about other cultures here than i ever did in high school.

  7. @Chas: I do agree with you – this is cool. I am sorry you did not got the chance, but there are a lot of them around today!
    @Sidney: I’ll pass the compliments for sure:-)
    @cehH: I think you have a good point there. The week are more exciting than peaceful as you can see in today’s post. I’ll pass you’re compliments of course:-)
    @anonymus: You’ve got the very best out of you’re stay in Norway then – great:-)
    @Expat: I’m glad you liked the consept and I am supose you like today post as well then:-)
    @Scart: I’m glad you liked it and of course you might call me ren or renny:-) I like you’re blog from the pics you know.
    @Barbara: Happy May 17 to you too – hope you like my report of today as well then!
    @April: Yes blogging is educational and a wonderful way to share cultural things like consitutional day’s and stuff. Come back and visit often and you might even learn more as I do visitng you’re blog:-)

  8. A very cool idea! Takes the social pressure off for kids that don’t feel comfortable with proms or don’t get asked, as had to happen in my day! I never went because no guys tall enough who I liked well enough asked me. You just didn’t go in big groups like some do today. I would have loved your tradition….it’s all-inclusive.

  9. Wir sind schon lange hoch zufrieden, will jedoch dem gedanklich folgen. Doch weil ich eine voellig andere Meinung habe!Es ist voellig richtig Ich vergleiche das wie folgt, seit ich gebrauchte Autoersatzteile fuer unser PKW kaufen haben wir am Monatsende mehr Geld uebrig.

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