Every year February 6 marks Sámi (SAH-mee) National Day, a day when thousands of individuals join in celebrating the vivid culture and history of Scandinavia’s indigenous people. The day wasn’t officially recognized as an ethnic national holiday until 1992, but its significance stems back to the first Sámi Congress held in Trondheim, Norway over 100 years ago.
The Sámi have inhabited northern Scandinavia for thousands of years, and reside in the region called Sápmi, which stretches across the high plains of Norway, Sweden, Finland and Russia’s Kola Peninsula. This makes them the northernmost indigenous people in all of Europe. They once faced oppression of their culture—including bans on the use of their native tongue— but are now admired for their central customs of reindeer herding, unique music and colorful dress. They currently have their own flag, language and Parliament.
Celebrating the day has become increasingly popular over the years. In Tromsø for example, the festivities span a week long where visitors are invited to watch reindeer races and lasso-throwing competitions, sample food, attend art exhibits and even take language classes. And in many cities throughout Norway, where it is legally a national flag day, the Sámi national flag is raised and the anthem is played.
Recognize this day rooted in rich history by teaching the young people in your life about the Sámi people and their culture. Find fun activities for all ages in the Family Matters section of the Viking February 2016 issue.