Uppsala goes fancy: Norrlands Nation’s Höstgasque and Gasque 101 (posted by Indira in Sweden)

As I mentioned in some of my previous posts, Uppsala is a meeting point for many contrary and contrasting things. Last week it was new and old. I was a part of a tradition so specific for Uppsala University students and so deeply embedded in the history of the student organizations here known as the nations, and yet so modern that still it occurs every semester.

The student life at Uppsala Uni is organized around 13 nations each representing a city or a region/county in Sweden. One can work in the nations, go for fika, study in nations’ libraries, meet friends, watch sport matches, go to the pub, attend concerts, participate in open mic and karaoke nights, go to the club there, take part in the gasque, as well as do many other things. But, let’s focus on the gasques (or gasks as they are called in Swedish). A gasque is basically  a formal dinner with an after-party. During the gasque you eat, drink, make toasts, and most importantly – sing. Yes, sing. Quite a lot, actually. Singing is basically the most important part of the gasque: You sing before making toasts, when drinking snaps (a celebratory tradition), when starting the dinner, when the dinner is almost finished, and for any other reason you could possibly propose to sing. And singing during the gasque is rather fun. Most of the songs are in Swedish, but you get a Songbook so you can follow and sing along. It’s also very easy to get the rhythm. Some songs even have their own little choreographies: My favorite song so far is one for which you stand up on your chair and sing and once the song is finished you should not sit in the chair since it means bad luck and you will fail all your exams. All in all, gasques are fun events where you get amazing food and meet new people, as well as familiarize yourself with Uppsala University and the nations’ traditions.

Höstgasque is the most formal of all the gasques during the Fall semester (höst means Fall in Swedish). The dress code is tail coat for the guys and ball gown for the girls. Ever since I heard of this gasque I made the decision to attend one, and I did so last week. A friend of mine plays in Norrlands nation’s orchestra so she attended the gasque and I joined her. All the members of the orchestra had dinner in a special room, but they followed all the gasque traditions.

The dinner table before the gasque started, a Swedish University tradition

The dinner table before the gasque started

There was a lot of singing, toasts, speeches, and chatting. I got to meet the members of the orchestra who were all Swedes. It was great practicing my Swedish and learning more about Sweden. Apart from that I enjoyed the food a lot – I ate moose for the first time ever. That was a whole new experience. We also played a game: All of us had a “top secret mission” that we had to fulfill during that evening. My task was to be obnoxiously loud after every toast and speech, applaud as loud as possible, and compliment the speech or toast. It was so much fun doing that! Other people had to propose toasts on every possible occasion, or start a conversation about music etc. It was a good way to bond with the people sitting near you at the table.

 Some of the members of the orchestra, which, played during the gasque, at the after-party

Some of the members of the orchestra

After dinner, the orchestra played and other gasque guests danced waltz and polonaise – that is how formal Höstgasque is! The formal dance continued during the after-party as well since more classical and jazz music was played. This is the typical after-party for these formal gasques in all nations.  Below is a video of the orchestra that played:

My friend and I decided to go for a full Höstgasque experience and went to the after-parties in two other nations  – Värmlands and Östgöta. The whole atmosphere made me feel like I travelled back in time. It was definitely an experience I am happy I was able to have. Attending the Höstgasque is definitely going to be one of the highlights of my semester abroad in Uppsala.

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