In May of each year, Norwegian upper secondary school graduates celebrate their graduations.
This celebration is in many ways like the American Spring Break, with many partaking in an excess of sex, alcohol and silliness.
The pupils who partake in this celebration are called “russ”. They traditionally wear overalls and hats color-coded to their particular study path, although few still wear the hat.
From most to least common; there are Redruss (general studies), Blueruss (economy and administration), Blackruss (vocational courses) and Greenruss (agricultural courses).
Some other groups have also joined in, with kindergartener wearing pink, lower secondary school students wearing orange, and Christian russ wearing white.
The Russ Celebration is an old tradition.
There has been some form of russ celebration as far back as the 1700s, and it seems to have started in Danmark, as there were no universities in Norway at the time.
The celebration we now see in Norway started in 1905. The red caps were inspired by the hats worn by German students who had visited Norway the year before.
The tradition slowly and naturally evolved from those starting points.
I could have joined in as a Blackruss at the end of my two years at culinary school, but I decided that it would be smarter to take some supplementary education with a year of general studies, before my two years as a chef’s apprentice.
That gap between the culinary school and my apprenticeship ended up being far longer than I had anticipated, as I spent a year in the military, and then a year of decompression and InterRail travel as a result of that year in the military.
So in May 2009, after a year of general studies, I was ready to be a Redruss!
Along with my overalls, I had all the other essentials…
I had a russehat, and a russecat..
And I had a russe-card!
These cards are meant to be used by russ to exchange contact info, but have become more of a collector’s item, usually among children who run up to the russ to ask if they can have some.
The cards often feature a quote, and I had picked one I liked from the comedy web-show ‘Red vs. Blue’ by Rooster Teeth, probably due to the shows use of those russ-related colors.
What I did not have, was a russ-bus.
Russ-buses and russ-cars are a big thing, particularly among russ who plan to travel great distances from one event to another.
During this time, there are a lot of music and party events for the russ all over Norway. They are often held a long way away from cities and towns, as to not disturb the sleep of normal people, and get the police called on them.
In fact, police and medical professionals are often on site to be ready for any problem that may arise from such an enormous amount of drunk teens in on spot.
The buses are then used for transportation, and to sleep in at these events.
But the fact is that these buses cost a ton.
The russ want them to look great, so the makeover process alone is very expensive. Some people have been known to take out loans to get the bus of their desires.
I was not willing to pay that much for transportation, so I just got a monthly bus card.
Another aspect to being a russ are knots.
Russ knots refer to knots made to the string that hangs from the russehat.
These knots have to be earned by completing various challenges set forth by the local Russ Board.
These challenges may involve sitting in your underwear for an entire class of school, eating lunch in a roundabout, consuming a given amount of alcohol in a certain amount of time, eating a burger in two bites, having sex with or kissing a certain amount of people or a certain age of person, spending the night in a tree, or spending the whole day painted as a cat in the face.
As I was quite shy, and was lacking any people-skills, at this point in my life, I did not get that many knots that involved any more people than myself.
Me and a friend did have to be “witnesses” for a couple that suddenly decided that they were going to get a knot by ‘doing the horizontal mambo’ in a bush, but honestly, they could have just been rustling the leaves for all I know.
I also got to kiss the cheek of a police-woman to get a knot, after asking for permission.
One knot that I am sure that I got, was when I stayed on school grounds for an entire night, drinking and grilling until classes started.
I think that is the only time I have ever skipped sleep, and it was horrible.
Six to eight hours, that is what I need!
The 16th of May, the day before the Norwegian Constitution Day, is the day where most of the partying takes place.
The russ party all night, then join in on the celebration with the rest of Norway on the 17th, and are then presumably ineffective for a week before they start waking up again.
I never got to experience this part, as I had to spend my last few days as a russ in the hospital.
Apparently, I had gout!
One of the things that can summon the beast known as gout, it to consume beer.
I had been drinking beer previously, but never to the extent that I did during my russ celebration.
So while I probably had gout for years, this was the first time I was properly hit by it. And now that I have released the beast, just a small sip of beer can become very painful for me.
My big toe and left ring finger became enormous, and my knee looked like the back of my father’s head.
I had to have the effected joints drained of joint-fluids, and started taking daily medications.
I have had problems with my gout many times later, but never as much as the time when I was a russ.
It was an end to my russ celebration just as anti-climatic as the end to this blog-post.