The 6th of February is the Saami National Day which is celebrated in Norway, Sweden, Finland and Russia, the four countries where the indigenous Saami people live today. The Saami National Day has been celebrated since 1993. The date, February 6, was chosen to commemorate the first Saami congress which was held in Trondheim, Norway in 1917.
Today the Saami National Day is celebrated by raising the Saami 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 Saami flag. While the flags are raised the song of the Saami people is sung in the regional Saami dialect.
Besides these formal ceremonies, many towns with a high Saami population have chosen to expand the celebrations by organizing events with a Saami theme in the days surrounding the Saami National Day. In some places the Saami celebrations last over a week with features such as concerts by Saami musicians, lectures, outdoor markets, art displays and Saami sports competitions. These events are an opportunity for the Saami people to come together and at the same time teach others about their culture and history.
Some Saami celebrations in the north:
Since 2005 Tromsø has hosted championships in reindeer sprint races during the days preceding the Saami National day. The races draw Saami 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. Saami concerts, plays, films and lectures were popular highlights of the Saami 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 Saami delicacies and handicrafts. A large Saami tent, called a lávvu, was also set up in the market square with a warm fire burning inside to fight off the cold.
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 Saami 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, Saami 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 Saami people.
Since 2007 the Giellagas Institute for Saami studies at the University of Oulu has hosted a seminar on Saami issues during the week of the Saami 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 Saami landscape. Guest speakers will talk about subjects ranging from tourist ideas about the Saami landscape to various methods used to document Saami history.
The Saami people living in Russia today are mostly located on the Kola Peninsula. The Saami parliament of the Kola Peninsula organized activities in Murmansk from February 4 to 6 to celebrate the Saami National Day. The program focused on Saami culture and language, and the way Saami youth and children relate to their culture. Several seminars and discussions took place during the weekend and there was also a Saami theatre performance on Saturday. Following the flag-raising on February 6 a new display on the development of Saami villages on the Kola Peninsula was opened at the Murmansk Museum of Regional Studies.
Photo: Miniature Saami flags. Visit the Flickr the gallery for more photos from the event.