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Four unique festivals to explore the Sami reindeer herding culture in Scandinavia

Do you want to experience reindeer racing in Norway?

Are you traveling to the Scandinavia this winter? The Sami people are the only indigenous people in the European Union. The indigenous Sami people have lived in the Arctic region for thousands of years. Their reindeer herding culture is rich and fascinating. Originally the Sami people were hunters and gatherers, but later they turned to herding of domesticated reindeer in the 17th century. The Sami people live in Norway, Finland, Sweden and in Russia’s Kola Peninsula. Their population is estimated at around 80,000 people, but only about some ten per cent of the Sami earn a living from the reindeer industry.

We picked up our four favorite and unique Sami festivals from three different countries in Finnish, Norwegian and Swedish Lapland. We recommend to add an authentic stay with our Sami families and your trip becomes richer. It is well worth the journey!

1. Polar Night Jazz Festival

Location: Inari-Saariselkä, Finland

Period: 21.11.2019 - 24.11.2019

Do you what happens in November in Lapland? It is a period of polar night which is the opposite phenomenon of the Midnight sun in summer. That means the sun does not rise at all between December and January. So what does the locals do? They head to the Polar Night Jazz festival which is held in Inari-Saariselkä. As if jazz music weren’t soothing enough, Polar Night Jazz Festival takes place in the middle of the “polar night” — meaning you’ll be in darkness the entire time.This event will bring together some of the best Finnish performers, and local Sami artists.

Polar Night Jazz event was first introduced in Tankavaara gold village 35 years ago. Today the international jazz festival takes place in Saariselkä, Inari and Karigasniemi restaurants, culture houses, chapels and even outdoors in the Arctic nature. The Northern lights dancing in the skies and the snow-covered trees will add to this unique experience in the far North. That's truly magical!

2. Skabmagovat - Indigenous Peoples' Film Festival

Location: Inari, Finland

Period: 23. -26.1.2020

Finland’s northernmost film fest, Skabmagovat festival presents Sami and other indigenous films and supports the Sami language and culture. The Sami and other indigenous peoples’ own voices are heard in the film and media industry – on the indigenous peoples’ own terms. Films will be shown in a unique Northern Lights Theater, which is rich in atmosphere. it is totally made of snow, with the sky as the roof. What an amazing place if the sky is clear to hunt for the northern light too. Films will also be presented in the auditoriums of Siida and the cultural center Sajos. This is an ultimate festival for film lovers! Remember to pack your heavest jacket.

3. The Jokkmokk Winter market

Location: Jokkmok, Sweden

Period: 6.2. - 8.2.2020

This 400-year-old Great Winter Market traces its origins back to 1602, when King Karl IX decreed that a series of market sites should be set up in the north to increase taxes, spread Christianity and exert greater control over the nomadic Sami. Today, it’s like a yearly party for Sami traders to make contacts and see old friends. Sami shoes and gloves are made from reindeer hide so here you can purchase beautiful Sami handicrafts, try food-tasting sessions, listen folk music, watch parades etc. One very important tip, warm clothing! The temperatures may be as low as 40 celsius below the zero. To get the most out of your market experience, it’s important to have the right clothing. But if you do feel cold, you can always go inside and enjoy a hot drink or a meal.

4. Sami Week with Reindeer racing

Location: Tromsø, Norway

Period: 3.2. - 9.2.2020

The Sami Week in Tromsø is held every year in connection to the Sami National Day February 6th, with Norwegian Championships in Lasso Throwing (Saturday 8th) and Reindeer Racing (Sunday 9th).Here you can see and do a lot of different Sami cultural activities such as reindeer racing, joik and Sami poetry, Sami handicrafts, reindeer meat tasting etc. A must thing to do is to experience the thrills of reindeer racing when reindeer with their coachmen speed down Storgata in the heart of Tromsø! Also the National Championship in Lasso Throwing takes place on the Sami week at the market square. Sami Week offers a diverse cultural program all over the city as well as a traditional arctic market.

Visit Natives is an online travel agency that offers sustainable indigenous tours in Lapland among the Sami reindeer herders. You can experience Sami culture, reindeer herding and unique Lapland adventures. If you would like to go on any of this festivals and need help on planning, please contact us! We can help you to make arrangements and book you a native Sami guide.

Traditional Sami food is found on the traditional Sami festivals

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