Graduates wear sailor hats in Sweden and get pelted with food in Argentina, but Norway takes the lead for the weirdest graduation tradition. Russefeiring (also known as Russ) is a graduation tradition that takes place from April 20 to May 17, Norway’s national day. Participants spend their final spring semester clad in coloured overalls while partying and completing dares from their russ all the achieve knots. The word russ is an abbreviation for the Norwegian word russisk which translates to Russian in English; therefore, Russefeiring translates to “Russian celebration.”
Ever since 1905, Russ has become a rite of passage into adulthood for students graduating Videregående Skole (upper secondary school), which is three years of optional schooling that leads to vocational qualifications for jobs, and study qualifications for post-secondary education. Depending on what courses students have taken, the overall colours vary. Red (rødruss) is the most common colour and represents general studies such as mathematics, history, literature, biology, etc.; blue (blåruss) for business and administration studies; and black (svartruss) for electronics, carpentry, and culinary programs. There are other overall colours as well, such as green for agriculture and white for Christian russes.
During Russ, members wear hats called “russelue.” The string on each hat is knotted with items that symbolize what accomplishments someone has achieved during the Russ period. The items (also referred to as knots) are all related to the dare; for example, a student pretending to be a dog at a supermarket and biting customers’ legs earns them a dog biscuit. The lists of accomplishments are posted by Russ committees around schools and communities, which include dares such as spending a night in a tree, and hosting an aerobic class at a pub and getting at least ten people to join.
The dares have had some backlash because they can involve illegal acts, such as assault and public nudity; some schools have attempt to put the celebration on pause by pushing exams to early May from early June. The idea behind the attempt was to make students focus on studying instead of partying. This attempt had no visible effect on the students, however, and exams were pushed back to their original times during the following school years.
The things Russ is most known for, other than the excessive drinking and partying, are the buses and vans. Teens spend weeks (and the hardcore russes, years) before Russ doing an MTV “Pimp My Ride”-esque makeover by painting the bus their respective colour using the same colour system as the overalls, renovating the interior, and adding decals and audio systems. The renovations cost an average of 2,000,000 Norwegian kroner (around $300,000 in Canadian dollars), with each member investing somewhere around $5000, including money from sponsors. Russes who require a bus are by law supposed to hire a professional bus driver, while vans require either an older friend or a russ who is abstaining from alcohol.
In Canada, completing a phase of school is almost always celebrated with a fancy graduation ceremony. When completing their final year of high school, students will usually celebrate the completion by attending a school planned event, such as prom or grad night. These events are usually hosted at local hotels or banquet halls accompanied with a dinner, dancing, and posed photos. Convocation is the actual act of graduation that is a whole other ceremony where students don a distinctive “cap and gown” outfit and receive their diploma in front of fellow successful classmates as well as friends and family.
The graduating ceremonies get more extravagant, and traditions more bizarre at the college and university level. Graduating students from Yale University go as far as urinating on the toe of Theodore Dwight Woolsey, and then proceed to tell underclassmen that rubbing the statue’s toe gives good luck before an exam. But either way, Norway’s upper secondary schools take the lead for weirdest graduation traditions.