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

Neither the great Atlantic Ocean nor time or social conventions could separate a love that was meant to be.
The Black Death – mother of all plagues - ravaged humankind in the mid-1300s. A Norwegian scholar takes us through the lead up to the disaster.
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 1836, milkmaid Kari Moen from the community of Sauherad in Telemark, Norway, was attacked by a bear. She almost lost her life that day.
Åre is a Norwegian noun that means an open fireplace, placed on the floor in the middle of a room. The smoke goes up and out through a vent in the roof - the ljore.
The rose painted chests of Norway - a treasure that will live for centuries to come.
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?
From the early 1800s and well into the 1900s, Norway was a significant exporter of natural ice. But how did they prevent the ice from melting?
In Scandinavia, agriculture first appeared in the Stone age – around 2400 BC. The early farmers cleared their land by using simple tools and fire.
There are many types of cheese slicers, but Norwegian furniture maker Thor Bjørklund invented the Norwegian version in 1925.
Lystring is a Norwegian verb that means catching fish or other water creatures in the dark, using a fire torch to attract the fish and a multi-pronged spear.
In a cold country like Norway, warm clothing is essential. This is a refined and old version of a woollen sweater from the district of Setesdal.
One of the oldest Norwegian instruments is the birch trumpet. But is it really an instrument at all - or did it originally have a completely different purpose?
Norway's mainland coastline, with its many fjords and islands, is the second longest in the world - next only to Canada. Here are some more facts for you.
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?
After the end of World War 2, the Norwegians all took part in lifting their country well and truly into the 20th century.
A primstav is an old wooden calendar-stick, marking the days of the year and important events. It splits the year into two equal halves: summer and winter.
When humankind first appeared in the Norwegian landscape – sometime after the last ice age – the search for food was their primary motivation.
What beautiful needlework. A bonnet from the collections of Slottsfjellsmuseet - in the city of Tønsberg.
The first Norwegian Buhund breed-standard came in 1926, based on a dog that had evolved, lived, and worked with the Norwegians since time immemorial.
The spinning wheel was a lifelong companion for most women in the old Norwegian farming society. Enjoy this video-collection of wonderful vintage photographs.

Follow us on social media

Norwegian history