Faredag | notice day for farmhands – twice a year | Norway

In the old farming society, nature dictated the flow of the working year. And farmworkers could only leave their jobs on 2 specific days during the year.
LA Dahlmann | talk NORWAY
A workman's moving day. Oil painting by Marcus Grønvold. Belonged to Henrik Ibsen. | Photo: Erik Thallaug - Ibsenmuseet cc by-sa.
A workman's moving day. Oil painting by Marcus Grønvold. Belonged to Henrik Ibsen. | Photo: Erik Thallaug - Ibsenmuseet cc by-sa.

The flow of the seasons

Today, we think of the year in terms of 4 main seasons: spring, summer, autumn, and winter. But the old Norwegian calendar divided the year into two equal halves: summer and winter.

14 April and 14 October

The summer started on 14 April, on what the old Norwegians called sommermål, sommerdag, or sommernatt. The first day of winter was 14 October, called vintermål, vinterdag, or vinternatt.

Utilising the summer was crucial

The Norwegian winters are dark and cold, with the ground often frozen and covered with snow. Therefore, the farmers had to sow, gather, and harvest enough food during an intense summer, to tide both people and farm-animals over the winter.

Needed predictable labour

The old farming methods were labour intensive, and the farmer could not risk losing any hired hands when he needed them most. This explains why the old laws only allowed farm labourers to leave their posts on either the first day of summer, or the first day of winter – on 14 April or 14 October.

Sommermål and vintermål = faredag

Faredag is the term people used when referring to these 2 days. You could not leave your position in the time in between.

8 weeks’ notice

According to King Christian 5’s Norwegian Code of 1687, a farm labourer had to give 8 weeks’ notice, ahead of the faredag. If not, he had to stay on for another 6 months.

If the employer caused trouble

If the labourer feared that his employer would cause trouble and force him to stay, the law stipulated a solution: he had to make his intentions known in the presence of others. For example, when attending church on Sunday.

Tenant farmers left on 14 April

For tenant farmers or cotters – leilendinger or husmenn – the faredag was 14 April. This makes perfect sense, as the new tenant then was allowed a full growing season on the new property. If not, how would he be able to provide for himself and his family over the coming winter?

14 April is in use even today

14 April is the handover-day used in farm tenant agreements even today. Either the farm’s owner or the tenant farmer – gårdens eier or the forpakter – must actively terminate the lease 1 year prior to the contractual faredag. Even when the contract clearly stipulates when the contract ends. If they fail to do so, the contract is automatically extended 1 year at a time.

Our most recent posts

My Norwegian heritage

The Heddal stave church - stavkirke - is Norway's largest remaining building of its kind. It is a woodwork masterpiece, with a history that stretches back more than 800 years.
Mead and beer are both alcoholic drinks known from Norwegian history. The Norwegians call them «mjød» and «øl». But do you know the difference between the two?
When the industrial revolution brought machinery to the Norwegian farms, it didn't just change the old working methods, it also changed the layout and look of the farmland.
In the year AD 1537, King Christian 3 of Denmark-Norway embraced the Lutheran Reformation, and the Norwegians went from being Catholics to Protestants. The king confiscated the Catholic Church’s considerable wealth, a welcomed addition to the royal coffers. Norway more or less ceased to exist as a sovereign state and became a province under Denmark.
This is our second video-slideshow with vintage photos of the Norwegian farm horse. Enjoy!
The wild ocean world of Værøy in Lofoten, Norway, was the birthplace of Mimmi Benjaminsen – born in 1894. Here are some of her childhood memories.
The Norwegians rarely allow alien species into their fauna. With one notable exception, the muskox - first welcomed in from Greenland in 1924.
On 18 November 1905, after a supportive referendum, the Norwegian parliament unanimously elected the Danish Prince Carl as the country’s new king.
As far as palaces go, the main royal residence in Oslo is a modestly sized building. Here we see it from an unusual angle, painted by the architect himself.
Here are 12 historical photos representing the fascinating Sami culture - with deep roots in the Norwegian and Nordic landscape.
With this old photograph in my hand I have set myself a task: how much information can I find in Norwegian online archives based on what the photo tells me?
Are you hailing from Sykkylven in Møre og Romsdal, Norway? Well, then you might be related to the great film and television icon that was James Arness.
Some vintage photos - and more to come.
17 May 1814 is regarded as the birth of the modern-day Norwegian state. But it took almost another hundred years before the Norwegians could declare complete independence.
Myrmelk is a Norwegian noun that means milk conserved in a container buried in a mountain peat bog, left there for herders or others to drink at a later stage.
In 1935, Aslaug Engnæs published a guidance book on how to milk the cow.
On the historical Norwegian farm, winter feed for the domesticated animals was a precious resource. Sometimes it was harvested and temporarily stored far away from the farm.
With the High middle ages came expansion and progress. But everything was about to change, in the most brutal way imaginable.
Skibladner is one of the world's oldest paddle steamers still in regular service. She was launched in 1856, and sails on Norway's largest lake, Mjøsa.
The first half of the 1900s was a time of enormous change in Norwegian society. It was then that a young boy experienced a peculiar family custom.
The oldest wooden buildings in Norway are almost 1000 years old - like Urnes stave church in Luster. How come these buildings do not rot away and disappear?

Follow us on social media

Norwegian history