Every year in the weeks leading up to the 17th of May celebration, you can see kids dressed in red or blue customized overalls all over town. They are taking part in the « Russefeiring », a celebration of the end of high school which involves a lot of partying (while still going to school!) and underage drinking.
I already explained that alcohol consumption is strictly limited in Norway, so why is underage drinking kind of allowed in this situation? Technically, the « Russ » are 18 or 19 years old, which means they are allowed to drink beer and wine. But in reality, a lot of younger people join those wild parties happening all over the place. In the case of the festival for example, age is strictly checked at the entrance so no mistake is possible. But, almost everyday, party buses carry young people around to various locations where they party without any real security or check.
You can only imagine that having hundreds of drunk kids everywhere for weeks is not the best for safety and the environment. A lot of places get completely trashed and the police has increased its control of the parties since last year. I work with a young woman doing her « Russ » this year and she told me it’s a constant game of cat and mouse with the police, with her pairs being on constant alert to be able to party before having to move to a different location.
The party buses are a huge part of the celebrations. You get in teams that will rent a bus for the weeks of the « Russefeiring », blasting loud music and carrying other « Russ » around. It costs a lot of money, which seems a bit excessive to me. This year, the regional council here wanted to spend some money on securing party areas and making it safer for everyone, but the « Russ » buses refused, as they then wouldn’t be allowed to carry minors to those parties. It’s still a sore topic for this year’s graduates, especially for young women who would have appreciated more safety and organisation. Sexual abuse is a definite underlying issue when involving youth and alcohol consumption, but it’s somehow not very highlighted in the media or through talks directed towards the « Russ ».
Outside of the negative aspects of it, it’s also surprising to me as those celebration weeks lead all the way to the week before their final exams, so even before being sure to graduate! So it should be approched more as a coming of age celebration than an actual graduation event. People turn 18, they want to party with the friends they grew up with before life takes them to different places, studies, or the military. I get that, and I think the principle is quite great.
It used to be about pranking teachers and friends, decorating and customizing party items, as well as defying others in competitions and of course dancing the night away. The way it’s evolving is more commercial and bigger every year, which worries some parents. I really don’t think it should be canceled and strongly monitored by the authorities, as the youth always find ways around control, but maybe some questions should be raised by those kids themselves. What do they want? How can they make it better and safer for themselves? They’re the ones holding the key.