Straight-up Scandinavia: Reindeer and a national holiday up north

In the far north of Sweden lies Lapland, a place known for snow, the summer midnight sun, and lots reindeer. This is the land of the Sami people and today, February 6th, marks the yearly, festive celebration of their national holiday.

An indigenous group of northern Europe, the Sami inhabit large parts of northern Sweden, Norway, Finland and the Kola Peninsula of Russia. They are known for their reindeer herding, a traditional occupation that has been handed down over generations. Unfortunately this year’s big holiday celebration is marked by a reindeer crisis; almost all of the grazing grounds having been declared disaster zones. Excess snow has led to much of the winter pasture land being inaccessible to the reindeer, and all but two Sami villages have had to apply for catastrophe aid.

The Sami are a strong people however — how else could you cope with almost all day winter darkness? — and despite the dreary reindeer situation, festivities are not being put on hold. Jokkmokk’s yearly market is a center of activity as people from around the region, both young and old, gather to sell traditional crafts to the hordes of tourists that flock in for the occasion. For this northern part of Europe that is stereotypically known for its calm and reserved personalities, the national holiday is an energized event. Elin-Anna Laber was quoted in The Local as saying, “Jokkmokk’s market is sort of a Sami equivalent to Milan fashion week.” Who knew the far north could be so crazy?