Thursday, May 17, 2012

May 17th: Norwegian Constitution Day

Me in a traditional Norwegian bunard.
     "Gratulerer!" (congratulations) was the cry of the day. Usually reserved for birthdays, the word was of course appropriate on Norway's own birthday, May 17th! This is the day in 1814 when Norway won its freedom from Sweden and established a constitution (think 4th of July, only super fancy). Everyone puts on their traditional "bunard" and celebrates out in the streets with sausages and sour cream porridge---which is way more delicious than it sounds, I promise. If you don't have a bunard of your own, like me, you dress as if you're going to a fancy wedding. After a huge breakfast with friends, guys and gals---dressed to the nines---head to the nearest State Church where the local bishop leads a service to bless the nation, choirs perform traditional songs, and the military holds a short memorial for lost soldiers. Afterwards, all the local schools parade through the streets, then it's on to barbecues and ice cream socials for the rest of the day! 
May 17th, circa 1910.
     What I find totally incredible about this day, though, is all the different bunards! Every region, sometimes even an individual farm, has it's own design that's been passed down for hundreds of years. Normally guys and girls get their bunards when they are confirmed by the church at age 14, and it's not uncommon that a mother or grandmother will have been embroidering bits of fabric, or buying individual pure silver or gold buttons each year, since they were just a baby. Altogether, a bunard can cost anywhere from $4,000 to $6,500, and they will wear them on special occasions for the rest of their lives (they're made with extra bits of fabric that can be let out as you grow). The one I'm wearing in the photo is borrowed from a friend, Heidi, who wears the bunard of her mother's homeland in the West Telemark region. It was a super heavy dress, and it took two extra people to get me into it, but it was so fun to play dress-up Norwegian style! 

Friday, May 4, 2012

Kragerø: Painting The Town Red

     This past weekend we took a team of twenty YWAMers to the Kragerø Russ Festival in the south of Norway to help out with the event. The festival brought in over 900 graduating high school seniors (called Russ in Norway) for teaching, worship, and a whole lot of fun. As the Russ head into their last month of school, there's a nation-wide expectation for them to go absolutely crazy. They pull tons of insane stunts, cause some playful mayhem, and generally enjoy their last weeks together as classmates. It's a lot of fun, and truly good-intentioned, but in recent decades the typical theme of this season have moved toward "drink as much as possible, have as much sex as possible, and experiment with anything and everything." This festival in Kragerø gives the Christian students an alternative to the typical Russ festivals happening around Norway in the weeks that follow. It's really an important time of strengthening as the students prepare to be Salt and Light among their non-Christian friends. 
     As a part of YWAM's involvement in the event, I was asked to put together a 24/7 prayer room in the concert hall. This was a quiet place, away from the chaos of the festival, where the students could come to pray and be prayed for. Many came there to meet with God, to worship, to lay down their rights, to commit to live abstenant and sober lifestyles during the graduation party month and beyond. We also had staff there around the clock interceding for the festival, praying through requests written by students, and lifting up the weeks leading up to the graduation and the beginning of a new chapter in the lives of these youths. It was such a privilege to be apart of this, and all I can say is I CAN'T WAIT FOR NEXT YEAR!