© Yngve Olsen Sæbbe

Sami Week in Tromsø

Concerts, talks, language courses, lasso-throwing contests, generous portions of warming bidos and campfire coffee, colourful costumes from all over Samiland: Sami Week is all about festival and celebration. But nothing beats reindeer racing down the city’s main street!

The Sami People’s Day, on 6th February, commemorates the first meeting that brought Sami people together from north and south and from Norway and Sweden. It took place in Trondheim in 1917. The day has become an official flag day, and in Tromsø it has grown into an annual manifestation of Sami culture which lasts for an entire week. 

Cultural events

All through the week Sami culture is celebrated with concerts, talks, and evening entertainments. Offerings include Sami language courses for beginners, art exhibitions, library events and special events for children. The Sami People’s Day itself is honoured at Tromsø City Hall, with an official celebration. 

Norwegian lasso-throwing championships

Lasso-throwing is an art born of necessity in reindeer husbandry. It has become a regular sport practised by the Sami Sports Association, and the championships in Tromsø are the official Norwegian championships. The lasso-throwing arena is set up in the city’s main square, surrounded by crowds of Saturday morning shoppers. Competitors take part in women’s, men’s and junior classes. The thing is to cast the lasso round the reindeer antler targets, while half of Tromsø looks on in breathless excitement.

Reindeer racing

On Sunday, barriers go down along both sides of the whole of Tromsø’s main street, to create a track for some fast and furious reindeer racing. When the start signal goes, the reindeer burst out of their stalls at the northern end and pound at full speed down the street, pulling their drivers after them on skis. The finishing line is at the southern end. The event is the Nordic championships, with the 12 fastest reindeer from Norway and Finland on the starting line. There is no distinction between male and female drivers; it’s the fastest reindeer that counts. As well as the senior class, six juniors also compete outside the championships.

Sami Arctic Winter Market

All week long, the lavvu (Sami tents) are set up along Tromsø’s main street, and everyone is welcome in to enjoy a cup of coffee brewed over the campfire. Traditional Sami celebratory food, bidos (reindeer meat stew) is also served, as well as lefse (soft, potato flatbread) made by Sea Sami communities. There are also booths selling duoddji, Sami handicrafts and art wares. When the cold really bites, the woollen mittens from Olmmaivaggi (Manndalen) are particularly popular.

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