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Saami National Day Celebrations

28 August 2015
The 6th of February is the Sámi National Day which is celebrated in Norway, Sweden, Finland and Russia, the four countries where the Indigenous Sámi people live today. The Sámi National Day has been celebrated since 1993. The date, February 6, was chosen to commemorate the first Sámi congress which was held in Trondheim, Norway in 1917...

Today the Sámi National Day is celebrated by raising the Sámi flag with its bright colors of red, green, yellow and blue and the two circles which represent the sun and moon. In some countries the national flag of the country is raised alongside the Sámi flag. While the flags are raised the song of the Sámi people is sung in the regional Sámi dialect.

Besides these formal ceremonies, many towns with a high Sámi population have chosen to expand the celebrations by organizing events with a Sámi theme in the days surrounding the Sámi National Day. In some places the Sámi celebrations last over a week with features such as concerts by Sámi musicians, lectures, outdoor markets, art displays and Sámi sports competitions. These events are an opportunity for the Sámi people to come together and at the same time teach others about their culture and history.

Some Sámi celebrations in the north:

Tromsø, Norway

Since 2005 Tromsø has hosted championships in reindeer sprint races during the days preceding the Sámi National day. The races draw Sámi from Norway, Sweden and Finland to compete for the title of world champion. As many as 1500 spectators flock to the main street of Tromsø to watch the reindeer racing past at speeds of up to 60 kilometers per hour.

In 2007 more events were added to the schedule surrounding the reindeer race and this year the celebrations spanned more than a week from January 29 to February 6 with different events going on all around town. Sámi concerts, plays, films and lectures were popular highlights of the Sámi week. An outdoor market was also held during the weekend of February 4 and 5. A wide selection of reindeer meat was for sale as well as other Sámi delicacies and handicrafts. A large Sámi tent, called a lávvu, was also set up in the market square with a warm fire burning inside to fight off the cold.

More about the Sámi week in Tromsø.

Jokkmokk, Sweden

From Thursday February 2 to the following Sunday, Jokkmokk town hosted a lively winter market. This year's market theme was "Music on the Arctic Circle". Northern Europe's largest winter festival is a gateway to discover the Sámi culture and its diverse heritage handicrafts. Every winter for more than 400 years, Jokkmokk market has attracted visitors from near and far to Swedish Lapland.

At the market place, one can find a wide variety of local products like elk and reindeer meat, Sámi bread, smoked trout, and jams and berries from Norrbotten. Dog sledding, snowmobile or helicopter tours and the traditional reindeer race on the lake Talvatis are great outdoor opportunities to discover the endless landscape of mountains located above of the Arctic Circle and cradle of the Sámi people.

More about the Jokkmokk market.

Oulu, Finland

Since 2007 the Giellagas Institute for Sámi studies at the University of Oulu has hosted a seminar on Sámi issues during the week of the Sámi National Day. This year's seminar will take place on Thursday February 9 and the seminar is organized in cooperation with the Sámi Siida Ealli Biras project.

The themes of the seminar this year are different layers and interpretations of a Sámi landscape. Guest speakers will talk about subjects ranging from tourist ideas about the Sámi landscape to various methods used to document Sámi history.

More about the Giellagas Institute.

Murmansk, Russia

The Sámi people living in Russia today are mostly located on the Kola Peninsula. The Sámi parliament of the Kola Peninsula organized activities in Murmansk from February 4 to 6 to celebrate the Sámi National Day. The program focused on Sámi culture and language, and the way Sámi youth and children relate to their culture. Several seminars and discussions took place during the weekend and there was also a Sámi theatre performance on Saturday. Following the flag-raising on February 6 a new display on the development of Sámi villages on the Kola Peninsula was opened at the Murmansk Museum of Regional Studies.

More about the Murmansk Museum of Regional Studies.