How does it work, Norwegian culture

O’beautiful May: the most celebrated month of the year

I started mapping out this post yesterday and was very excited to invite you in to the Norwegian world of May, but waking up today was like having a brick thrown at my face. It’s snowing. A lot. And it just sucked all the joy out of my summer-hungry soul. As I walked my zombie like body towards the coffeemaker in the kitchen this view hit me:

 

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Oh well.. It’s a part of May as well. It happens every year. It’s just so traumatizing that I put it in that little box in the back of my mind and throw away the key, which puts me in the same soul-sucking situation every year.  Anyway, May is a month of beauty and celebration for Norwegians. It’s the last month of spring, blooming season (when it’s not snowing), a month filled with days off work and the celebration of Independence Day.

I picked out some appropriate pictures to give you a sense of what May looks like in Norway:

 

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  1. May Day – our first day off. As a teen you will use this day to recover from a terrible hangover. As an adult you will march the streets for you rights. I will stay in bed, especially with today’s weather.
  2. From late April until the 17th of May you will see high school grads in their overalls doing weird things in the streets. They are called Russ, which is a tradition Norwegians have taken with them from the 1700s Denmark. In 1905 we introduced the red hats in to the graduation process and it’s just grown from there. Now we have a different color for different main subjects, but mainly you see the reds and blues. Red usually means history students and the blue is for economics. We put a lot of effort in to this celebration, so you should not be surprised if you see painted buses driving around with loud music. It’s pretty much a 17 day long festival filled with craziness. Every year the board of the Russ introduces that years knuter (knots) which sets the mood for what the celebration is going to look like. We tie knots and different things into the line of our hats when we have accomplished a task, like a twig for having sex in the forest – or a dog treat for crawling into a shop barking at dog food for 4 minutes. I feel insane as I write this, but it is actually something all Norwegians look forward to from an early age. Children often collect Russekort which is more like a business card that the Russ exchange with each other. Here’s mine from 12 years ago:

 

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Which reminds me that my hat is somewhere in storage with a 12 year old dog treat attached to it. Yackh! We do actually have a Norwegian TV series called Skam (shame) that went viral – where the plot is revolved around this celebration. I think it just got remade in American, but I have no idea how they would make that work..

3. Independence Day: 17th of May is the day of the year when Norwegians actually smile at strangers and say “Gratulerer med dagen” (Congratulations with this day) while they wave their flag with one hand and eat ice cream with the other. The day starts very early, often 07:30 which in practice means 05:00 because you have to dress up in traditional celebration clothes (Bunad) which takes forever to put on. And then we go into the city centers to watch all the children march and sing, in Oslo the Royal family waves from their balcony and there are popup carnivals all over the place. Well, that’s more of a family thing, I on the other hand celebrate a bit differently, but I’ll save that for the actual 17th of may.  I’ll add an old photo of myself in my Bunad here, because I’ve been to lazy to get a new shirt, so I might not be able to wear it this year:

 

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17th of May is many Norwegians favorite day and it’s not without cause. Norway is a fairly young independent country and it brings much joy to celebrate the liberation from both Sweden and Denmark.

I hope you’ve enjoyed the May introduction and if you’ve ever wondered what would be the best time to visit Norway: May. You might want to be prepared for some snow, but all in all there’s usually a lot of sunny warm days, filled with happy and crazy Norwegians.

På gjensyn!

 

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