A couple of hundred miles above the Arctic Circle in the chilly northern European regions live the Sami people, who are among the world’s oldest living cultures. Most Sami are reindeer herders and are renown for being hospitable and friendly to outsiders. This is why more and more people going on Northern Lights tours visit them to learn about their preserved traditional lifestyle and to see their reindeer.
The Sami are indigenous people that have long inhabited Russia’s Kola Peninsula, as well as parts of northern Finland, Sweden and Norway.
Their population is an approximate 90 thousand people and their mode of life is all about harmony with the surrounding nature. The Saami have profound respect for nature, trees, plants and animals and managed to preserve their traditional centuries-old lifestyle and rich heritage.
For thousands of years these people have survived by hunting, fishing, and reindeer herding and therefore reindeer meat is an integral part of traditional Sami food.
The meat is usually fried, stewed or can be dried. Fish and wild berries, such as cloudberries, are also common in the diet of the Sami.
Salted fish and Bierggojubttsa soup are among the most well-known dishes which can be tasted during tours to visit the Sami people.
Importantly, the Sami people keep and put to use every part of the reindeer. The skins are used for making shoes and clothes, whereas the bones for crafts and tools, called duodji. All handicrafts are made of natural materials and often depict cultural patterns and designs.
Sami clothing is also very symbolic and differs in style, depending on geographic origin. It can actually tell about the person’s marital status and nativity.
Bright red, yellow and blue colors are used in folk costumes which are called kolt or gakti. For most Sami today this clothing is more of a festive garment for special occasions. Men and women also usually wear traditional accessories as well as shawls, belts and embroidered decorative collars and hats.
Reindeer husbandry plays a significant role in the life of the Sami people. Historically they had a nomadic lifestyle and would follow the reindeer herds as they migrated through the forests, moving on foot or skis and living in tents and huts called lavvu or kata.
Today the Sami say they are reindeer walkers as the animals aren’t kept in captivity and have the opportunity to roam freely on special grounds. Marking the calves ears is also a traditional element of their work.
Important knowledge about reindeer and the Sami language is also passed down within the community. Dialects vary from region to region, but the language is rich and descriptive. As such there are several hundred ways to describe snow!
The culture of the Saami people is interesting as well.
Their singing is called yoiking, it originated from spiritual chanting and is one of the oldest forms of European music.
Yoiks are passed down from generation to generation telling a story of the important things that shouldn’t be forgotten.
As for other forms of entertainment, the Sami are fond of holding events such as reindeer racing championships and festivals.
Often called Laplanders, the Sami have always coexisted peacefully with their neighbors and take pride in their cultural uniqueness and identity. Those planning to set off on a journey to the north can make their Northern Lights tour even more unforgettable by visiting these wonderful people and learning about their life.