Traditions live on up North

August 4, 2008 at 3:18 pm | Posted in Scandinavia, Traditions | Leave a comment
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The Aftenposten in English it is being quite useful! Look at what I found:

Traditions live on up north

A traditional reindeer feast is a big part of Sami confirmations. PHOTO: OLE MAGNUS RAPP

Spring is busting out all over, and in the far north of Norway it’s accompanied by a wave of confirmations and weddings celebrated in traditional Sami style.

The past weekend unleashed what some observers call “the most beautiful fairy tales” of the season. It was wedding and confirmation time in Kautokeino and Masi, before the Sami people herd their reindeer from the vast inland areas of Finnmark to coastal grazing land.

Confirmations quickly turn into community events, and normally full local churches are packed to overflowing. Family members are given tickets, to be sure they get seats.

The event is a spectacle of bright colours, smiles, brilliant handicraft and serious expressions of the Christian faith.

The pastor speaks in Norwegian, which in turn is translated to the Sami language (Samisk). There are few if any shortcuts: Sami congregations sing all verses of the hymns, sermons are detailed and all those being confirmed are expected to come forward to take communion.

Months of preparations have taken place before the young Sami teenagers kneel in church, both religious and non-religious.

Special reindeer were slaughtered last fall, to feed guests at the parties that follow the church services. The reindeer skin has been well taken care of, and turned into trousers. Colourful, traditional dress is an important part of all Sami celebrations.

“Everything should be new, from the innermost to the outermost clothes,” said Berit Andersdatter Buljo Eira, mother one of the teenage girls being confirmed. “It’s best when the clothing is sewn by the parents, the grandparents or the godparents.”

She has sewn her daughter’s jacket and the family invested in the silver that goes with the traditional dress. Her mother, Gunnhild Sara Buljo, also contributed to the weaving and sewing that goes into the elaborate and colourful garments.

Her husband handpicked all the cloudberries (multe) served for dessert. Several hundred guests can show up at traditional Sami weddings and confirmations.

“Its important to have traditions,” said Berit Eira. “And we take care of them.”

Berit Andersdatter Buljo Eira (left) makes a final adjustment to her daughter’s traditional handsewn Sami dress before confirmation festivities begin.PHOTO: OLE MAGNUS RAPP

Sara Karen Elle Persdatter Eira admires the traditional wooden chest she received to hold her silver and other items to be used at an eventual wedding. PHOTO: OLE MAGNUS RAPP

Do you know other newspapers like this one? It is quite a good way to be aware of what is happening in the far north, right? At least in Norway. If you find other ones for Alaska, Russia, Canada… Let me know!

Sámi Duodji

July 21, 2008 at 12:15 pm | Posted in Handicrafts, Scandinavia | 1 Comment
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When I was in Sweden last December, I traveled all the way to the arctic circle, to Sápmi (Lappland is the wrong name, remember!). One of my interests was to find out about their linguistic, cultural and social situation. And while searching that, I also discover the Sámi Duodji or Sámi handicrafts. It was a wonderful surprise, as they are the symbol of a millenarian culture. They are colorful and sober, and they combine utility and beauty. Wikipedia offers this definition for the Sámi Duodji:

Duodji, is a centuries old Sami handicraft, that dates back to a time when the Sami were far more isolated from the outside world than they are today. Duodji tools and clothing accoutrements served their purpose to be functional and useful, however this does not means that the Sami handicraft is unartistic. Sami doudji artist are able to bring function and art together in such a delicate way to create beautiful works of art in their own right.

These functional items include, knives, cases, ladies bags, wooden cups, certain articals of clothing, etc. Duodji items were made and meant to be used in an everyday work environment. Traditionally Sami handicraft was divided into two sub-groups, – men’s and women’s handicraft – men used mostly wood and antlers as well as other bones from reindeers when crafting, women used leather, and roots. The traditional Sami colours are red, green, blue and yellow.

I had the chance to visit a Sámi home, and saw some handicrafts and traditinal costumes. I asked to take pictures:


At least in Sweden, there is an association who brings together most of the Sámi artisans, to guarantee they authenticity of the products. Finding products with their certification label is a safe way to buy Sámi handicrafts, though if you are really interested on them the better thing you can do is to attend the Sámi Marknad, a winter fair that takes place in Jokkmokk every February and that is considered one of the most important Sámi events.

I was there in December so I could not assist, though I managed to buy some certified crafts and reindeer meat. If you are interested on the Sámi handcrafts but Sápmi is to far from your place, here you have some interesting links to contact Sámi artisans:

Árran: Sámi Artisans in North America
Sameslöjdstiftelsen: certified Sámi Duodji from Sweden.

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