Despite the chilly temperatures, more than 30,000 people flock to Swedish Lapland every February to revel in the history of one of the world’s oldest nomadic cultures.
Market (Jokkmokksmarknad), the
largest indigenous Sámi festival in the world, celebrates the lives and
traditions of the Sámi people, who are native to the northern parts of Norway,
Sweden, Finland and the Kola Peninsula of Russia. Archaeological artefacts from
the area, collectively known as the Sápmi
region, date back 10,000 years, and for centuries the Sámi lifestyle has centred on reindeer husbandry,
fishing and hunting. The village of Jokkmokk has been a key trading post for
many Sámi groups who herd reindeer between Sweden
in the winter and Norway in the summer.
The festival officially kicks off on the first Thursday of each February, but visitors
should plan on arriving a few days earlier for the “Historic Market”, a look
back to the Middle Ages with handmade balms,
medicinal salves, dried mushrooms, jams, fur clothing and carvings for sale.
Feast on traditional reindeer and moose meat, fish, root vegetables, herbs,
berries and other local foods, prepared over open flames.
There is a host of activities to enjoy while the
festival is in full swing, such as folk dancing, traditional jojking (similar to yodelling), dog
sledding or reindeer racing. Try searching for the Northern Lights, take an
excursion to the Ice Hotel or spend the
night in a handmade snow igloo.
Do not miss the reindeer
caravan at noon each day. The procession is led by local Sámi elder, Per
Kuhmunen, whose working reindeer pull his grandchildren along on wooden sleds
through the market’s narrow alleys.
Swing by the Ájtte
Museum, the official Sámi museum, with permanent exhibitions such as “The
Passage of Time”, which chronicles 9,000 years and 270 generations of
indigenous life, as well as “Costume and Silver”, which displays traditional
clothing and handicrafts.
integral to the Sámi culture, as most parts of the animal can be used – meat
and fat for cooking, fur and skin for clothing, and horns for tools and crafts.
Head to Restaurang
Samernas to try seasonal, local dishes made by Sámi elder Greta Huuva, like
Renspån - torkat renkött och varmrökt
rentunga (dried reindeer meat and smoked reindeer tongue), Kams (chunks of curdled reindeer blood)
and Torrköttsoppa (dried
reindeer-meat soup). Or locate Wild Hasse’s
booth at the market – easy to spot as he will be bellowing out to passersby – and
sample some of his dried meats and jerky made from local game like reindeer,
moose and bear.
Sámi will often be wearing “Gákti”
designs from Sweden, Finland and Norway -- traditional clothing with
embroidered belts, boots and gloves made from reindeer skin and fur. Sámi artist and designer Elise Tullnär puts on a fashion
show each day during the festival which spotlights locally deisgned winter
clothing made from fox fur, reindeer skin and wool. Handcrafted jewellery and
original artwork are also on sale.
The article 'Sweden’s winter Sámi festival' was published in partnership with Lonely Planet.