Nice hand made souvenirs from Lapland

In the area of reindeer herding in Finland; in Lapland, the souvenirs to bring home from there as memories are very often made of parts from the reindeer. Actually the Lappish people have always used all parts of the reindeer. Except for the meat they eat they also prepare all kinds of useful objects from the fur, the antles and even from the bones. There are practically no leftovers when the Lappish people make use of a reindeer.

Tourists visiting Lapland want to buy some souvenirs to bring home from their trip. The choice is many times a hand made item, made by the Lappish people.

An old traditional souvenir is the Marttiini knife. The knives have been manufactured in Rovaniemi, Lapland since 1928 and are of high quality. The Marttiini product range covers knives for hunting, fishing, camping, collectors, household and for professional use. The founder was Janne Marttiini, and his picture is still used in marketing.


Souvenirs made of reindeer antlers are manufactured by a local craftsman, whom you find on the pedestrian street of Rovaniemi almost the year around. He offers his beautiful products to people walking by his tent in the city of Rovaniemi. There are candle holders and many many small objects made of reindeer antlers.


KUPILKA is a product name for dishware of traditional Lappish form made of natural fibre composites. The biomaterial consists of 50% pine fibre (wood) and 50% thermoplastic. KUPILKA products have been designed by Kari Kuisma together with a well-known Finnish architect and designer Heikki Koivurova. KUPILKA means a “little cup” and the word stems from the Finnish word “kuppi”. It also refers to a term used by Finnish people decades ago, when men and women warmed up their hands with their “kupilka” or “little cup” by drinking hot beverages during the rough Finnish winters.


In the reindeer restaurant Sirmakko you are served for instance the traditional sauteed reindeer on KUPILKA plates.


Under the label “tarinatuote” you find many local hand made products from Lapland. I got inspired by these gloves and bought myself a pair of gloves made of reindeer leather with nice fitted ornaments. They are made by Sisko Ylimartimo from the company Tikkurituote. Ireally love my smooth reindeer gloves!


If you visit an handcraft market in Lapland you most certainly will also find silver jeweller made from Paarma design. Tytti Bräysy is the artist behind these lovely necklaces. I found these products on the yearly Arctic Market in the end of November in Rovaniemi.


Many products are sold by the Sami people themselves in the Arctic Market and other similar occasions. Silver jewelry line A Drop of Inari by Katja Lettinen is inspired by the supernatural beauty of Inari. The engraving style reveals lines of birch trees against the backdrop of a snowy mountain. With this jewelry line she was named Artisan of the Year 2014. Every piece is designed and made with touch of arctic mood in Finnish Lapland, Inari.


One table on the Arctic Market inspired me to buy equipment to make my own Sami bracelet. There were different bags and purses made of reindeer leather and also buttons made of reindeer antles and a nice necklace with a silver chain and a piece of a reindeer bone.


The package inhold everything I needed to manufacture my own Sami bracelet.


Must say I am a bit proud of myself as I managed to do this.


Some inspired artist has come up with these winter bikinis made of reindeer leather and fur. Dare to wear them?


What to do on a rainy day in Rovaniemi – Arktikum and Korundi

Even if I seem to point out that the weather conditions in Rovaniemi are always nice, I have to admit there are days in the spring time when the sun is not shining….. A nice weather condition for me is sun shine, no hard wind and no rain. The temperature is not so important to me; I like really cold weather as well as warmer weather. The eight seasons of Lapland have all their own weather conditions; both good and bad. People born in Lapland tell me the weather in spring time, in May-June, are the worst with melting snow and rain; everything looks dirty. This winter I think the wind has been stronger than earlier years, with several stormy days and milder temperatures.

Days when you do not want to go skiing, on a hike or otherwise spend outdoor, can be museum visiting days. In Rovaniemi there are the Arktikum museum and the Culture Center Korundi with the Art Museum; both worth a visit.

The Arktikum is a museum as well as a science center. Arktikum opened to the public on 6 December 1992, the 75th anniversary of Finland’s independence. It was designed by Danish architect group Birch-Bonderup & Thorup-Waade. The crescent-shaped new annex was designed by Bonderup and Lehtipalo, and it was completed in autumn 1997.

Local natural materials have been used in the building: the floors are made from Perttaus granite – the hardest type available in Finland – and from lime-washed Lappish pine. The chairs are made from birch and reindeer hide.

The most visible part of the museum, its glass corridor, is 172 metres long. The tube serves as the “Gateway to the North”, as the entrance is at the southern end and guests head north when coming in. As you walk in the glass corridor, there are exhibitions behind doors on both side of the corridor as well as along the walls in the corridor.



Two separate actors use at Arktikum: the Arctic Centre and the Regional Museum of Lapland.

The Arctic Centre of the University of Lapland is a national and international centre of expertise on Arctic issues. It conducts locally and regionally oriented research, the high standard of these researches is recognized internationally. The Arctic Centre also provides education on Arctic issues as well as disseminates knowledge about the region and related research.

The Arctic Centre exhibition “Arctic in Change” introduces the people and animals of the Arctic as well as details the ongoing changes that are affecting the region. The exhibition showcases the Arctic Centre’s research findings, which deal with issues like climate change and life today in the Arctic region. Some of the pictures are a bit scaring when you see what the climate change already has done to the earth and the nature.

The Regional Museum of Lapland is owned by the City of Rovaniemi. It was established in 1975 and together with the Rovaniemi Art Museum it forms the municipal museum function.

The Regional Museum of Lapland is an expert on Lappish culture, prehistory, history, building heritage and nature. The Museum produces content on the North for use in education, travel and its other cooperation networks. The Museum is also an active participant in research on questions related to these things.

The Regional Museum’s permanent exhibition “Northern Ways” leads guests into the history and culture of Finnish Lapland. The exhibition is a real experience that provides an introduction to the stories behind the houses of old Rovaniemi before the war as well as to popular beliefs and superstitions about the brown bear and the Eurasian elk.

Temporary exhibitions display different related topics about Northern and Arctic life. This spring there are temporary exhibitions about the Geres – the Sámi sled; how they were made and used in old days.



The Geres were like small boats “floating” on the snow behind a running reindeer. The Sami had different types of sleds for different purposes. There was also regional variation in different areas of Lapland. A driving sled, a decorated church sled was used for important trips to the church or courting trips. Goods sleds or caravan sleds could be either with a backboard, then called a backboard sled, or without one which was more common. Backboard sleds were used mostly by theSkolt Sámi. Those sleds suited well for transporting smaller objects and on the annual migration trips, which the Sámi used to make. Small children and small animals, such as sheep, were transported in goods sleds.


A lockable sled, or a lid sled, was bigger than the other sleds; it could be 2,5 metres long and had a convex wooden lid. The lockable sled was used for transporting the most valuable things, provisions, alcohol and the best clothes. A caravan sled could also have a loose lid that was fastened to the sled only when needed.

Sleds were treated with tar to make them more durable and to prevent the wood from rotting. The bottoms were tarred once a year. From the early 1900s people started to paint their driving sleds in bright colors and patterns.


This year the Lapland war is exposed in many different ways all over Lapland (70 years after the peace) and the Regional Museum of Lapland arranges an exhibition called “Wir waren Freunde – We were friends” about Germans in Lapland during 1940-1944.

A beautiful exhibition is the one about the Nature Photographs of the Year. Arktikum presents the winner of the Nature Photographs of the Year Competition. The winner photograph is “Dance of the Seagulls” by Matti Pukki. All photos are amazing!

Dance of the seagulls

The Art Museum and the Cultural Centre Korundi is situated in the centre of Rovaniemi. Korundi is easy to find as it is situated in the massive former post bus depot, built of red bricks in 1933. This iconic building is one of the few historical buildings that had survived the Second World War in Rovaniemi.


Rovaniemi Art Museum sets its main focus on Finnish contemporary art and Northern art. In its yearly exhibition program the museum introduces works from artists who either work in the North or are born there. The exhibition program also includes exhibitions from the Jenny and Antti Wihuri Foundation Collection as well as some interesting insights into Finnish and international contemporary art.

On Art Thursdays Korundi is open from 11am to 8pm with free entrance to the art exhibitions from 6pm to 8pm.

So, earlier this winter I went one Thursday night to look at the exhibitions from Petri Eskelinen’s mechanical pieces of art. The embracing machine “Mechanics of Embrace” was very impressive. Could be in use on the yearly “Hugging Day” on January 21st. When you move the former arms of the machine, the machine embraces you with arms around your back. Nice.


On the second floor there was the exhibition “Crazy Forest” with Finnish contemporary art; all of them with inspiration from the forest. Artists have always been inspired by forest. For Finns, forest is a very important part of nature. Our wintry forest is full of snow. Hares are white and so is Pekka Jylhä’s “Bearer of Light”. This piece of art made me laugh as I entered the exhibition.


Wir waren Freunde – exhibition at Arktikum museum

In the autumn of 1940, soldiers speaking foreign languages began to be seen at railway stations in Lapland and along the highway leading north to the Arctic Ocean. The local people looked in wonder at handsome German soldiers who appeared in their home regions and gradually began to take buildings and sport grounds into use. This marked the beginning of a four-year period of coexistence between Finns and Germans, which ended dramatically with the destruction of Lapland in the autumn of 1944 when the Germans withdraw from Finland and burned almost all buildings in Lapland behind them.

IMG_7457 (2)

This year Finland and especially Lapland celebrates 70 years since the Lapland War ended and the museum Arktikum has put together a nice little exhibition about the Germans in Lapland between 1940-1944. The exhibition is on show at Arktikum until January 10, 2016.


From the day I came to Rovaniemi I have always heard about the Germans and their impact on Rovaniemi and Lapland because they almost completely burned Rovaniemi down when they left. I never found “the old Rovaniemi” as you usually find in every town. That is because there is no old Rovaniemi; the buildings are all built after 1945.

I little by little learned the history of how the Finns were forced to drive the Germans out of Finland by order from the Soviet Union. This was one of the conditions there would finally be peace between Finland and the Soviet Union after WWII. This started the Lapland War between Finland and Germany. I understood the Finns actually did not want to fight the Germans and the operation did take longer than Soviet Union had demanded, but Finland got the peace. But Lapland was to pay the price as the angry leaving Germans lit everything on fire. The Lapland War lasted between September 28, 1944 and April 27, 1945.

There were some 220 000 Germans in Lapland, about 6 000 of them in Rovaniemi area between 1940 and 1944. That is almost as many as the local population of Lapland in those days. (Today we say there are 200 000 people and 200 000 reindeer in Lapland). The amount of Germans were divided into 4 000 officers, 22 000 non-commissioned officers, 113 000 army soldiers, 21 000 SS soldiers and 30 000 air force soldiers.

As I visited the exhibition I finally got the answer why the Germans were here in the first place, which my history lessons at school had forgotten to mention….

In September 1940, Finland and Sweden signed transit agreements with Germany permitting troops and material required by the Germans occupying Northern

Norway to pass through their territory. As a result, the railways and roads of the north were filled with German troops and munitions in growing numbers. A wide range of active contacts that last for several years evolved in the region between the Finns and the Germans.

The second Wold War (WWII) was going on in Europe. Finnish-German military cooperation made North Finland a war zone for Germany troops from 1941 to 1944, but Finnish Lapland was not occupied by the Germans.

Germany invaded the Soviet Union on June 22, 1941. Three days later, Finnish towns were bombed by Soviet aircraft, and Finland now considered itself to be in the Continuation War against Soviet Union, fighting alongside Germany. The headquarters of the Finnish Army, under Commander-in-Chief Mannerheim gave the war zone of North Finland over to the Germans, with the Sixth Division of the Finnish Army under German command. There were two German army corps in Finnish territory; one in Petsamo and the other in the Salla region. Their supreme command was originally in Oslo in Norway, but the headquarters of the 20th Gebirgsarmee founded in January 1942, was located in Rovaniemi. The army’s task was to defend North Finland, attack Murmansk and cut off the railway leading south from Murmansk.

The Finns in Lapland considered the Germans to be handsome, had good bearing and sang cheerfully. In Rovaniemi the soldiers were enthusiastic to look after their appearance and one reason for that, was that barbers in Finland were women, unlike back home in Germany, where the barbers were only men.

By the autumn of 1941, there were over 630  German accommodation- and storehouse barracks in the Rovaniemi area. The various services of German information and cultural institutions such as theater, bookstore, artists’ residence and radio station in Rovaniemi were also enjoyed by local residents. In particular, the cultural facility know as “Haus der Kameradschaft”, completed in 1943, was an impressive building with 350 seats and a large stage. Finnish and German entertainers performed there, and the most popular events were screenings of films and concerts. The Germans would often give free tickets to their Finnish neighbors and friends.


The Germans in Lapland provided work for the Finns, too. Approximately 12 000 Finns were employed in the Province of Lapland by the Germans by February 1944. It also turned out that the Germans paid considerably higher wages than Finnish employers and many workers moved from one work site to another in search of better pay. Women were offered employment working as nurses, clerical staff, washerwoman, cleaners and casual laborers. Young people also had an opportunity to earn good wages at German work sites.

The Germans had a lot of professional skills that were not to be found in the outlying regions of Lapland. There were doctors, dentists or veterinarians among the Germans. I have read the interesting book in Finnish written by doctor Emil Conzelmann about his work in Rovaniemi during these years (Tohtori Conzelmannin sotavuodet Lapissa). The Germans also carried out a great deal of electrical and repair work for local people. (Which however they destroyed as they left Rovaniemi.)

Any Finn with the slightest knowledge of German was asked to be an interpreter.

The arrival of the German troops marked the beginning of a boom period for retailers in Lapland. Shops in Finland offered goods that were not easily found in Germany in those days, such as radio receivers, fur coats, women’s underwear and wristwatches. You can easily understand there was a boom in business as the amount of inhabitants grew by 100%. The Germans had Finnish money and they bought a lot of things.

Finnish women and German soldiers could come into contact with each other in many different situations. German soldiers on leave held small soireés and parties in their barracks. During the war, these were of course a welcome change and entertainment for everyone. According to newspapers, some thirty Finnish-German weddings took place between 1940 and 1944. According to estimates, some 250 Finnish women followed their German loved ones to their new country in the last stages of the war and afterwards. A sad story is about the woman, who had to return back to Finland again, after she was not found suitable to marry a German. She did not have the Arian look, that was considered ideal at that time in Germany.


The exhibition tells about love stories between German men and Finnish women. You can spend a long time there reading love letters. In a chest there is something connected to the German period in every drawer for you to find out. There is also a desk with interesting documents and newspapers from the period.


It is estimated that there are less than a thousand people in Finland who were born out-of-wedlock to Germans. Between 1943 and 1945, 264 children were born out of marriage in the township of Rovaniemi The children of Germans were a banned subject of conversation for many years, and even the mothers did not want to tell their children of what had happened.



The Germans were friendly to children in Rovaniemi and could often give them sweets, chocolate and bread. As the soldiers had to spend a long time in a foreign country away from home they missed their families and children. The Germans also held Christmas parties and gave Christmas presents for young Finnish children. In smaller villages all the children and their mothers were invited, while in larger communities only poor families were invited.

Finns showed their hospitality by inviting Germans to the sauna, and it was impolite to turn down such an invitation. The Germans gradually learned that the sauna was not a health risk and they began to enjoy it. For Germans, the first time in the sauna was often a memorable event. They even started to call themselves “Saunisten”.

There are many stories about Generaloberst Dietl, the commander of the 20th Mountain Army during the invasion of Norway. He was regarded as pleasant and also described as a friend of Finland with a sense of humor. He required his troops to be friendly to Finns and also set a good example in this respect.


After 1945 bitterness among the Finns against the former “comrades-in-arms” that was caused by the Lapland War led to decades of suspicion of all German things. Returning soldiers, who came to visit their brides and children left in Finland, were victims of repeated vandalism and German tourists would hear catcalls.

In Norvajärvi in Rovaniemi German organizations financed the building of a mausoleum in 1963 at the cemetery for the German war dead. On the opening day of the cemetery, local communists staged a demonstration with over 300 participants. Public opinion, however, seemed to take the view that the last resting place of the dead must be respected: “You can’t hate dead bodies”.


If you visit this exhibition you will also learn there is an app you can get from AppStore or GooglePlay called “Kuvat eläväksi”. If you download that (it is for free; found under “Lapin maakuntamuseo”) to your iPad or IPhone you can, by pointing the camera function on the device towards the pictures marked with a red ring, get the picture alive and the person on the picture starts to tell you a story based on memories and stories from that time. Unfortunately only in Finnish for now. But it was quite surprising to see the people in the picture start moving. There are three such pictures in the exhibition. Ask the staff for help, if you do not get it to work.




Sami traditional joiking and the story of Akanidi, the daughter of the sun

joik (also spelled yoik), is a traditional Sami form of song. Originally, joik referred to only one of several Sami singing styles, but in English the word is often used to refer to all types of traditional Sami singing. According to music researchers, joik is one of the longest living music traditions in Europe, and is the folk music of the Sami people. Joiking is the Sami way of singing. The Samis call the western way of singing lavlodh. Here is a link where you can find a lot of interesting information about Samis and joiks among other things. 

Here a map illustrating the Sami areas in the Nordic countries. There are Samis in both Norway, Finland, Sweden and Russia. They all feel related, even if they speak different Sami languages, and they have never consider borders to be anything more than some lines drawn on paper.


The sound of a joik is comparable to the traditional chanting of some Native American cultures. With the Christianization of the Sami, joiking was condemned as sinful. Today joiking is still alive and is also used as a source of inspiration and an element in contemporary Sami music. Joik is traditionally chanted a cappella, but joiks today may be accompanied by a drum (though not a Sami drum which is used for ceremonial purposes only!) or other musical instruments. 

Joiking has not always been appreciated as a form of music, however. At one time it was not even called music. As early as 1609, the king of Denmark and Norway, Christian IV, announced that anyone practising Sami witchcraft would be sentenced to death. The Church viewed joiking as witchcraft, right up until recently. There are still people living who consider that you should not chant a joik in a church. 

The Sami world view is based on shamanism. The joik creates an emotional bond between people, animals and nature. The Samis explain: “We don’t joik about something, as you do when you sing. We say that we joik something. Then we become a part of what we are joiking.” 

Inga-MaaritNowadays the Sami joik is not condemned anymore by the royalties of Norway and Sweden. A young musician, Inga-Maarit Gaup-Juuso even got an invitation to perform joiks on the National Day celebration of Sweden in Stockholm this year 2014 on June 6th. That was a great honor to Inga-Maarit Gaup-Juuso, but also a way for the royalties to show their approval of Sami joiks these days. You can look at her performance together with the Swedish singer Loreen here. Loreen, the dark-haired Swedish singer was the winner of European Song Contest in 2013. Inga-Maarit Gaup-Juuso was born in Enontekiö, Lapland. Her mother comes from Kautokeino in Norway and her father from Enontekiö in Finland. Inga-Maarit has performed joiks to the royalties of Norway and Monaco some years ago during their visits to Lapland, Finland. 

Nils-Aslak Valkeapää was a well-known modern Sami writer, poet, musician, and artist using joik in his work. He performed at the opening ceremony of the 1994 Winter Olympic Games in Lillehammer, Norway.


Nils-Aslak Valkeapää was born in Enontekiö in Finnish Lapland and he died in 2001. Valkeapää was born to a family of traditional reindeer herders, but was trained as a school teacher. He lived at the Finnish border to Norway in the upper-North of Finland. 

The story of Akanidi, the daughter of the Sun

Akanidi, the daughter of the Sun flew through the skies and watched the Earth from above. There was a warm sunbeam coming from her to reindeer on the pastures, to the animals in the deep forests and to the fish in the seas and oceans. Akanidi understood all the animals, but she was not acquainted with people yet. She just observed the people; that they sometimes were really happy, but sometimes they looked so unhappy. And sometimes people were really nasty to each other. Akanidi was wondering how the humans could become happy all the time.

As Akanidi went home to have a good night’s sleep she asked her mother, the Sun, for permission to go down to earth and live among people. But the Sun said; “Don’t you have enough space here? What would there be to see down there? Here you have the clouds to play among and you can dance with the sunbeams and  you are even allowed to sing beautiful melodies together with the winds.” Akanidi answered, she was tired of living up in the skies and now she wanted to move down to Earth.

The next morning Akanidi was sent to live on the Earth in a hut together with an old man and his wife. The Sun had sent her daughter to an isolated little island. Akanidi could not see anything but the old man and his wife and their modest hut. The old couple did not have any children of their own.

Times went by and Akanidi grew up to a young woman. Her parents gave her beautiful clothes to wear. When Akanidi looked at herself in the mirror, she started to sing happily. Akanidi just danced and sang happily. The old couple listened to her song and watched her dancing and their hearts were filled with great love.

One day the white-haired parents of Akanidi said to her: “Your time has come, my child. You have to go and live together with other people. Let your heart be helpful and loving, let it warm other people’s hearts.”

And the old man took Akanidi with him and travelled to the nearest Sami village and left her in the first hut. Akanidi entered the hut and the people immediately paid attention to her coming. Everyone was drawn to Akanidi.

Akanidi spent some time with the people in this village and she taught people of the village to decorate their clothes with pearls, interesting colors and spectacular patterns. Akanidi showed them the pictures of stars, circles, birds’ footsteps and beautiful stones sparkling in the sun. She moved from hut to hut singing and dancing and telling stories. She taught the people of the village to sing hunting-joiks, sea songs and sun melodies.


But there was also envy among the people of the village. Everyone did not like happiness to spread among the people of the village. And they wanted to get rid of Akanidi, but the Sun was all the time watching over her daughter protecting her.

Some elderly people thought that they could get rid of Akanidi by throwing a big stone on her. So one day as Akanidi was sitting in a hut teaching the children how to make buttons from seashells, the envious people came suddenly in to the hut and threw a big stone on Akanidi. Akanidi took a deep last breath and sang the last lines from her favourite joik. When she had stopped joiking she disappeared with the smoke from the fire through the hole in the hut up to the skies. And she never returned back to Earth. But her joiks, dances and spectacular pictures are still in the minds of people. People are still teaching the skills of Akanidi to their children. When doing this their hearts melt and they find happiness.

This story is true. Everything happened when the people of the North met Akanidi, the daughter of the Sun, for the first time.


The fascinating Sámi dresses

The national dresses of Sámi people are brightly colored traditional clothing. The tradition has started already in the 16th and 17th century. The dress shows the ethnic belonging for these folks. Some, but not all, Sámi wear the traditional dress on special occasions, like weddings, funerals and official meetings when they want to show the best they have to wear. Among the older Sámi people the dresses are worn also on normal weekdays. Here in Rovaniemi you usually see Sámi people dressed in national dresses during the Sámi Parliament´s, Samediggi, meetings 4-5 time a year.

The dresses are nowadays made of mostly blue wool or felt and the ornaments are distinctive bands of bright red and yellow patterns. These bands are decorations on men´s tunics, gaktison women´s skirts and on hats for both men and women. You can tell from the special ornaments and the form of the men´s hats from which region of Lapland they come. Every region has their special hat, some are cone-shaped and others have four corners, known as pointed hats or the Four winds hats. You can even tell the marital status, unmarried men wear round buttons in their belts, and from which family he/she comes from the ornaments on the dresses. A Sámi dress consists of many parts from shoes to belts to hats.


In the Finnish Lapland there are five areas with their own dresses: The Teno river/Utsjoki area, Enontekio-Kautokeino, Sodankyla/Vuotso, Inari and the Skolts´dresses.You can see the differences between dresses if you click on the link. There are also different dresses for winter and summer. 





Today many Sámi use their traditional dresses in tourism services. It is stipulated by the Sámi Parliament that it is not recommended for other people but the Sámi to wear the traditional dresses. Many souvenir shops sell copies of the pointed hats to tourists and I think these hat copies are quite commonly used by others than the Sámi.


There is a traditional story about the pointed had, that I want to share with you:

“A long, long time ago, perhaps thousands of years ago, or maybe a little longer, man could not live in Lapland. Do you know why? That was because all the four winds used to blow just how they wanted. One morning the world could be green and warm, the flowers were blooming and the sun was shining. But the next morning there could be cold and snowy outside as the winds were blowing hard from the north. Sometimes, all the four winds blew, all at the same time.

Then one day a man came to the north, a shaman. He built his tent and moved to Lapland, ignoring the four winds. But he was lonely: no wife, no kids, no friends. Then the shaman lit the fire in his hut, and began to yoik and play his drum as accompaniment. With his amazing yoiks the Shaman called the four winds to come and see him in his hut. The shaman and the winds sat down by the fire, the hut was warm and the four winds fell all asleep. But the Shaman did not sleep, he put some more logs on the fire, and in the warm temperature the four winds began to shrink and shrink. Eventually they were so small that he could hold them in his hand. The shaman took off his hat, which at the time was shaped round like a normal hat. The shaman took the winds one at a time, put them in his hat, and then he tied the winds inside his hat.

Next morning the four winds woke up, got annoyed and tried really hard to get out of the hat. They blew hard in all directions, but they did not manage to come out. Do you know why? Well, they were tied to the hat. The winds inside the hat shouted “Let us out, let us out!” And the shaman said, “I will relieve you on one condition only; you have to promise that you all agree on when you will blow, one at the time, and the others will be waiting for their turn.” And the winds promised and agreed to that in the future the north wind blew only in winter time, the east wind blew in the spring, the south wind would blow warmly in the summer evenings in Lapland and in September the wind would shift to blow winds of fall.” As a reminder of this promise from now on all the men in Lapland wear a four winds hat,” said the Shaman to the four winds and waved his hat, which no longer looked the same after the capture of the four winds, it was now a pointed hat.”

Here you find a lot of more pictures of Sámi dresses. 






Seidas – where Sámis used to offer sacrifices

Seidas are holy places (Bálvvosbáiki) related to ancient Sámi culture. There are mentions in writing about the Sámi people worshipping trees and rocks dates back to the 16th century. Seida worship became less and less important and were even destroyed when Christianity spread in the 17th and 18th centuries. These places of worship were believed to be the home of Gods, spirits and elf folk. Seidas were often made of wood or stone. Seida rocks are typically individual, unusually shaped or coloured natural rocks. Most seida rocks in Lapland are noticeable landmarks and clearly stand out in their environment. They are found on shores of rivers, on the slopes of the fells and near paths where Sámis used to walk with their reindeer. In lake Inari there is an island, Ukko, which is also a seida for sami.


Old Sámi religion was based on an animistic ideology, according to which everything in the nature has a spirit. In the hopes of favourable conditions, people offered sacrifices to the nature-dwelling spirits. The most important deity was Ukko, Äijih. The Finnish word Ukko derives from the word referring to thunder, ukkonen (like Torus, Thor). Ukko’s wife was Akka (Ákku or grandmother in Sámi). Other important Gods included the sun, i.e., Päivä (“Day”), as well as the moon, wind and water Gods. In pre-Christian Sámi culture, there was no term referring to religion. The seidas, deities and their worship were a natural part of people’s everyday life.

People used to visit seidas to honor the nature, but specially if health difficulties or other problems occurred.

puuseitaWooden seidas have appeared mostly in wooded areas, on the shores of good fishing waters. They have often been shaped by cutting the lower branches of trees or lifting a block of wood or a tree stump into an imposing position. At times, people carved features of human faces or figures in the wooden seidas.

Also fells, hills, steep cliffs, unusual gorges and saivo lakes could have served as holy places. There are many place names in the North referring to the holiness of the place and its possible use as a place of worship. Fishing seidas were usually located by waterways, sometimes even in the water. The seidas located on fells and hills have been used by deer hunters and reindeer owners.

seita tecken

Every village (siida) in Lapland and several families also had their own seidas. A seida dedicated to the God Ukko stood behind many Lapp “kota” huts. The most important sacrificial ceremonies were related to turning points in the annual cycle. like midsummer or autumn, as well as the traditional rites in people´s lives, such as childbirth.

When a man set out to go deer hunting or fishing, he promised a share of his catch to the seida to ensure hunting and fishing luck. When he returned to the seida he offered the best parts as thanks; like bones, horns, fish or pieces of fish. The offerings were also meant to keep the seida in good mood. Sometimes the seida was even given spirits, tobacco, iron or money.

puuseita 2Some Sámi people think you should be ware of seidas and other sacred places, because of the curse, illness and enchantment that could be transported over to visiting people. Seidas also demand gifts from the visitors and you should not go near the place if you do not bring what the seida wants.

Many seidas have been forgotten over time, but several holy places have become important attractions of cultural and historical significance, and their history is kept alive in stories and legends.

Here you find information about a few seidas and mysterious Saivo lakes in Lapland, if you dare to visit them.



Shamanic drum therapy and drum building

As many of my readers have searched for articles about shamanism and the shamanic drums, I have decided to write this post about shamanic drum therapy. The other day I heard about a friend who visits a therapist and get drum therapy. She finds the effects from the therapy really healing and energizing and who knows, I might try it myself one day.

Drum therapy is an ancient method that uses rhythm to promote healing and self-expression. From the shamans of Mongolia to the Minianka healers of West Africa as well as among the shamans of the Sámi people of Finland, Scandinavia and Russia, therapeutic rhythm techniques have been used for thousands of years to create and keep up physical, mental, and spiritual health. Still today drum therapy is used in Lapland by several therapists to cure different emotional problems and decreases.

drum healing


Current research is now verifying the therapeutic effects of ancient rhythm techniques. Recent research reviews show that drumming accelerates physical healing, boosts the immune system and produces feelings of well-being, a release of emotional trauma, and reintegration of self. The therapy session lasts for about 1,5 hour. This is not something you just run away on your lunch break and do. It requires you to really get the drumming into your systems to have the desired effect.

shamandrum therapy

Other studies have demonstrated the calming, focusing, and healing effects of drumming on Alzheimer’s patients, autistic children, emotionally disturbed teens, recovering addicts, trauma patients, and prison and homeless populations. Study results prove that drumming is a valuable treatment for stress, fatigue, anxiety, hypertension, asthma, chronic pain, arthritis, mental illness, migraines, cancer, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, stroke, paralysis, emotional disorders, and a lot of physical disabilities.

Drumming induces deep relaxation, lowers blood pressure and reduces stress. Stress according to current medical research contributes to nearly all disease and is a primary cause of such life-threatening illnesses as heart attacks, strokes and immune system breakdowns.

Chronic pain has a progressively draining effect on the quality of life. Researchers suggest that drumming serves as a distraction from pain and grief. Moreover, drumming promotes the production of endorphins and endogenous opiates, the bodies own morphine-like painkillers, and can thereby help in the control of pain.

The therapist Markku Backman in Finland has developed a shamanic energy treatment, which he calls Whizhealer therapy. Whizhealer therapy has influences from methods used by ancient shamanic and other nature people using the shamanic drum in treatment. Whizhealer treatment takes about 1,5 hours and is followed by a discussion for approx. 10-30 minutes. Markku Backman tells the therapy should be taken on three different sessions to have the best effect. As your energies start to flow they open obstructions and open your existing locks of emotions.

shaman drum

If you want to have a drum of your own you can take part in a drum building course and make your own shaman drum from reindeer skin and stick from antlers. You can also add important symbols to the skin. The link for drum making courses is unfortunately only in Finnish, but you can look at the pictures and get the idea how to make a drum of your own and take a look at the drum video to get an idea of how the drumming goes. I have also written about the symbols in my post You can read more there.


If you decide to buy a drum or make one of your own the drum is never a shamanic drum before you have performed the inauguration ritual in the nature somewhere on a hill or fell. You lit four fire places around the area in all four directions, to the south, to the north, to the east and to the west, and walk slowly around the fire places and ask for the spirits to bless your drum. This ritual is thoroughly described on Thuleia’s home page. Unfortunately only in Finnish, so far.

The shaman drum and their symbols are often used in manufacturing of souvenirs from Lapland. For example this bath towel I have bought from the Arctic circle. I love the colors and the symbols on it!



Lappish delicacies from reindeer meat

As the sun shines from a clear blue sky in March you may wonder what on earth is hanging on the balconies or from the ceilings of the verandas of houses in Rovaniemi and also on other places in Lapland!? It is an old Lappish tradition to dry reindeer meat in the sun in the beginning of spring. The Lappish people love dried reindeer meat; especially people in the country side are used from  home to dry meat and they have also taken the tradition with them to the city..



Meat is traditionally dried in the late winter-early spring. The March wind and the strong variations in day and night temperatures dry out the meat quickly. The meat is hung to dry in an airy place until it is ready. When the meat is ready, it is no longer red inside. It should be dark, almost black through and through. The speed at which it dries depends on the weather. It is not wise to leave the meat hanging for too long because over-dried meat is tough to cut. You can dry all parts of a reindeer carcass; usually meat on the ribs, fore loin and shoulder are used for this.

People in Lapland use the dried meat for a snack. They carve dried boneless meat into thin slices and eat them as they are. But you can also prepare a dried reindeer meat soup with potatoes and milk. It is not easy to buy this meat, but in spring time the dried meat is sold in vacuum packages on some places in Lapland.



What you traditionally can order in any restaurant in Rovaniemi made from reindeer is the sautéed reindeer and mashed potato. To prepare that by yourself at home you need:

1 kg meat for sautéed reindeer, 2 tablespoons of butter or margarine, 1 dl water, 2 teaspoons of salt.

poronkäristysPut the meat into a pot with melted butter or margarine and brown the meat. When all the meat has thawed and browned, add the water and salt. Reduce the heat and allow to simmer under the lid for 10-30 min. Serve with the buttered mashed potatoes and some lingon berries. This is absolutely my favorite reindeer food!


The sautéed reindeer meat you can buy from the deep freezer of any Supermarket in Lapland all year around. It can be used in many ways, even as filling on a reindeer pizza. Minced reindeer meat is also sold as deep frozen products but also tinned, which is easy to transport and store. You can i.e. prepare a warm soup from tinned reindeer meat.


Snow and ice design and architecture

The surroundings of snow and ice for approx. 7 months a year in Lapland has inspired the Lappish people to create ways and methods to take advantage of that fact. There are several occasions during winter that are related to snow or ice, like art exhibitions, buildings and happenings.

Snow and ice buildings and happenings related to snow are of course depending on the weather conditions, but with many years of experiences there have not been great problems so far. The winter is cold and snowy in Lapland.

A building that this year raises for the 19th time is the SnowCastle in the town of Kemi, about 100 km from Rovaniemi by the coast of the Gulf of Bothnia. The SnowCastle is already under construction and will be opened on January 25th 2014. The SnowCastle has different themes and both contents and architecture vary every year. Inside the castle there are light-effects on the ice-sculptures and the constructions. The SnowCastle will be open daily until the season ends on April 6th. This date could change depending on the weather conditions. Reservations can be done for the restaurant and for the chapel. Many couples get married here during the season. These pictures are from the SnowCastle in 2007.





The snow-building is also represented at the Arctic Circle in Rovaniemi. Every year there is something made of snow and ice. Even a whole log house made of only ice with an ice bar was built there in winter 2008-2009. 




The Arctice Winter Wonderland with long snow slopes and a playground for children at the Arctic Circle is very popular. This year they have expanded with a building containing ice bar, art gallery and ice hotel.

In SantaPark you can visit the ice gallery. There are sculptures of wild animals living in the arctic regions. Last year’s visitor was Sid from the Ice Age movies. This year Niko the reindeer is visiting the Ice Gallery of SantaPark. There you can also meet the Ice Princess, try to sit on her throne and have a cold drink in glasses made from ice.




At the Lapland University there is a Snow Design Project running under the Faculty of Art and Design and the University has the knowledge of snow design that it wants to export to other parts of the world.

Earlier projects of snow design in Rovaniemi are such as these:

IMG_3112 IMG_3113

IMG_6819 IMG_6822IMG_6821

IMG_8707 IMG_8708


IMG_0480 IMG_0489 IMG_0495


Many hotels around Lapland offer the customers possibilities to sleep in an igloo in combination to a hotel room. The night in an igloo is an extraordinary experience where you also get a certificate. You are provided with warm clothes and sleeping bags, the beds are comfortable and you always have the possibility to return into your hotel room if you find the igloo night too challenging.



At the Arctic Circle outside Rovaniemi, near the house of Santa Claus a new world, Arctice Winter World, has opened its doors this winter. You enter the world through the wooden house and for an entrance fee you can visit the ice bar with spectacular ice sculptures and the igloo hotel, everything made of just snow and ice. Outside the igloos there is a huge icy slope for downhill tobogganing.



The Arctice Winter world opened on December 5th, 2013 and is planned to keep open until the end of March this year. I was amazed by the igloo hotel. There were several rooms of different size and all with its special ice decorations on the walls. The beds looked tempting with comfortable madrasses. You can book a room on the home page and you get a sleeping bag to use. The walls in the hall are also decorated with outstanding sculptures.

IMG_4193 IMG_4203


All over the Arctice Winter world there were special colored lights. After the entrance you enter into the ice bar and café. On real reindeer hides the whole family can enjoy non-alcoholic or alcoholic warm or cold drinks. Cold drinks can also be served in real ice glasses.

IMG_4189 IMG_4188





Warm drinks for cold days

Today, as the temperature outside shows around -25 degrees Celsius, I want to tell you about some drinks that will warm you up..

Finland is one of the world’s biggest coffee consumers. In 2011 the consumption of coffee per capita was about 9,7 kg/year. But I will not tell you about coffee now…

One drink very popular in the Arctic regions in winter time, but especially around Christmas is the Glögi. In Sweden they call it Glögg. It has been introduced to Finland in the beginning of the 19th century as a warming drink on cold winter days. It is a heated, sweet berry juice with a lot of spices, like cinnamon, cardamom, bitter orange shell, ginger, clove and nutmeg. It is also called Mulled wine and in Germany they have a similar drink called Gluhwine, but that is not as sweet as Glögi.


Glögi can be made from berries picked in the nature of Lapland, like lingonberry or cranberry, but also from black or red currant. You can buy a special spice mix called Glögimauste, which you add into the heated juice and let it stew for about 5 minutes. After that sift the spices and your drink is ready.



Glögi can also be made of concentrate, which you can buy in any grocery store before Christmas. You mix the concentrate with hot water according to what is said on the package. There are also ready-to-use made Glögi in the stores, which you just heat up to drink. The stores offer you a big amount of glögi trade marks to choose between.



Preferably Glögi is enjoyed with raisins and almonds in it. It is also very popular to add some alcoholic into the Glögi to get a little more adult touch. In Finland the popular alcohol is Koskenkorva; 38 % alcohol made in Finland. Also Vodka can be used, but all kinds of red wines or rum are suitable, too. Never boil the drink with alcohol in it. The alcohol should be added after heating up the juice.

Glögi is often served outdoors after a snowmobile safari at the fire-place, or in the evenings after work. You also find it, both non-alcoholic and alcoholic, in the Gingerbread Bakery of SantaPark, where you can enjoy it together with your own decorated gingerbread.


Me and my ice-fishing friends use to enjoy a special tea by the fire-place during ice-fishing season. That is black tea with some cognac and (much) sugar. That is easy to prepare outdoors, because you only have to heat the water by the fire-place and then use teabags. Plastic bottles of cognac is easy to transport and do not need any cautions not to break.


 Also a very sweet warming drink is in Finland called Minttukaakao; mint cocoa. That is a cup of warm cocoa with added 2 cl pepper mint liqueur.


Maybe the Snowman’s soup (Lumiukkosoppa) would be something for you? You need a hot cocoa drink, two Christmas chocolates, three marshmallows and a candy stick. Recommended specially for kids and other childish people 😉






Do you know what an Advent Calendar is?

An Advent calendar is a special calendar used to count or celebrate the days to Christmas. Children of Germany, Finland and Sweden have their own advent calendars to count the days to Christmas. When they open a window they are one day closer to Christmas Eve. The days often overlap with the Christian season of Advent. Despite the name, most commercially available Advent calendars begin on December 1 with door number 1, regardless of when Advent begins, which can be as early as November 27 and as late as December 3. Door number 24 is to be opened on the morning of Christmas Eve on December 24th. .


This is the calendar I got, as a subscriber, from my daily paper, Lapin Kansa, the northern most daily newspaper. Their calender have pictures for all 24 days of Advent, but also a lottery number, and there are numbers that win something every day until Christmas. The numbers are published in the same day’s paper.


The origins of the Advent calendar come from German Lutherans who, at least as early as the beginning of the 19th century, would count down the first 24 days of December physically. Often this meant simply drawing a chalk line on the door each day, beginning on December 1.

The first known Advent calendar was handmade in 1851. According to the Lower Austrian Landesmuseum, the first printed Advent calendar was produced in Hamburg in 1902 by a protestant bookshop. Other authorities state that a Swabian parishioner, Gerhard Lang, was responsible for the first printed calendar, in 1908.

Lang was certainly the progenitor of today’s calendar. He was a printer in the firm Reichhold & Lang of Munich who, in 1908, made 24 little colored pictures that could be affixed to a piece of cardboard. Several years later, he introduced a calendar with 24 little doors. He created and marketed at least 30 designs before his firm went out of business in the 1930s.

The practice disappeared during World War II, apparently to save paper. After the war, Richard Sellmer of Stuttgart resurrected the commercial Advent calendar and is responsible for its widespread popularity.

Many of the advent calendar take the form of a large rectangular card with “doors” of which there are usually 24: one for each day of December leading up to Christmas Eve on December 24th, where the 24th door often holds an extra surprise like an extra large picture. One is opened every day. The calendar doors open to reveal an image, poem, a portion of a story or a small gift, such as a toy or a chocolate item.

One very nice calendar I found in SantaPark. It is a train with 24 boxes on the vaggons to be filled with nice things.

Advent calendars can also consist of cloth sheets with small pockets to be filled with candy or other small gift items. Many calendars have been adapted by merchandisers and manufacturers to include a piece of chocolate or other confectionery behind each compartment.

The Advent calendar is normally shaped like a large greeting card, but it can be found in other shapes, such as a three-dimensional model of a house or church.IMG_8505

These days you can also find Advent Calendars on Internet. Rovaniemi city has its own Calendar on the Facebook site of Visit Rovaniemi, on the address: you find a new picture and a message every day until Christmas.

Another nice Advent Calendar on Internet is this: . Here you can listen to Christmas music and read Christmas thoughts and poems everyday until Christmas.


Nice souvenirs to bring home from Lapland, part 2

The tourists visiting Rovaniemi want to buy something unique from Lapland and Rovaniemi to take home with them. I listed some of the most popular products earlier in my blog. In this post I want to continue listing interesting Lappish souvenirs.

IMG_2755One local trade mark with good quality and products made of traditional materials is Lauri Tuotteet. You can find them in any souvenir shop in the city and also in Santa Claus village at the Arctic circle, but you can also visit the old Lauri shop on Pohjolankatu in Rovaniemi. The Talisman jewellery you can also find in the Rovaniemi Tourist Information and in the Culture house Korundi or buy them from the Rovaniemi web shop. I like the Lauri products very much and I have bought many of them for Christmas gifts to my family members over the years. Kitchen wares with handles made of reindeer antler are very beautiful.

The history of Lauri Tuotteet begins with the goldsmith Johannes Lauri. He came to Rovaniemi from Southern Ostrobothnia (about 600 km south of Rovaniemi) in the 1920’s.  In 1924 he started up a knife factory on Pohjolankatu in Rovaniemi, where you can visit Lauri Tuotteet Oy also today. The production and sales of handcrafts that Johannes Lauri established in Rovaniemi nearly 90 years ago continues onward. Lauri’s business history is unique and the longest of its kind in Lapland. Lauri Tuotteet Oy manufactures traditional Lappish handicrafts. The main raw materials are reindeer antler and goat willow’s root. Those are also the materials for the knife handles. All knives are handmade. Individual Lauri-knives are desired for collections and highly valued gifts and they are absolutely beautiful with the combination of reindeer antler and wood.

puukko_09_paljon_th puukko_kahva_puu_th

About twenty people worked in the Lauri factory during the busiest years. The factory was unfortunately destroyed during the Lapland war in 1945.
Immediately after the war, the manufacturing of the knives and other reindeer antler products started again. Along the years, new products has been designed. For example products made of curly birch. Also new knife and jewelry designs were introduced after the war. Objects made of reindeer antler are decorated with pictures of genuine sámi art.

Other Lauri products are the felt boots and the reindeer leather mittenstossut_sin_final_thtossut_sin_yla_th tossut_valk_huopa_th

annelies sweets

If you want some sweet tastes Annelin yrtit ja karkit (Anneli’s herbs and sweets) can offer you nice marmalade made of the Lappish cloudberries, cranberries and blueberries. They manufacture also teas, syrups and spices. These products are easy to take home with you and very tasty, too!


Traditional Reindeer Jerky is one of the best treats of Nordic cuisine. In the old days without refrigerators it was used by the Sami people to survive. Now it has become more of a delicacy. The jerky is made of 100 % reindeer meat with only salt added. The process is that the meat is dryed outside for a few weeks.


The Lapish Shaman’s drum

Many tourists visiting Lapland meet with a shaman during their guided trip. Not all of them get the meaning of this visit clear to them. A visible sign after a visit to a shaman’s tepee are the marks in front of your head made by the shaman with some soot from the fireplace. As many of my readers are interested to know more about the shaman traditions in Lapland I will try to explain a little more.


To start with, I want to explain to you what a shaman is. A shaman is a person regarded as a messenger between the human world and the spirit world. The shaman typically even enters into trance state during a ritual where he drums on his magical drum. The shaman communicates with the spirits on behalf of the community, including the spirits of the deceased. The shaman communicates with both living and dead to reduce unrest, unsettled issues, and to deliver gifts to the spirits.

shamaan drum shaman with drum

shamandrummingShamans have various strengths. Shamans have the knowledge and the power to heal by entering into the spiritual world or dimension. The shaman may have or acquire many spirit guides, who often guide and direct the shaman in his travels in the spirit world. These spirit guides are always present within the shaman though others only meet them when the shaman is in a trance. The spirit guide energizes the shaman, enabling him to enter the spiritual dimension. The shaman heals within the spiritual dimension by returning ‘lost’ parts of the human soul from wherever they have gone.

There are many variations of shamanism throughout the world, but several common beliefs are shared by all forms of shamanism. Common beliefs are the following:

  • Spirits exist and they play important roles both in individual lives and in human society.
  • The shaman can communicate with the spirit world.
  • Spirits can be benevolent or malevolent.
  • The shaman can treat sickness caused by malevolent spirits.
  • The shaman can use trance inducing techniques to incite visionary ecstasy and go on vision quests.
  • The shaman’s spirit can leave the body to enter the supernatural world to search for answers.
  • The shaman evokes animal images as spirit guides, omens, and message-bearers.
  • The shaman can tell the future, throw bones and do other varied forms of divination

Sami shamanism is shamanism as practiced by the Sami people in Lapland. Though they varied considerably from region to region traditional Sámi beliefs consist of three intertwining elements: animism, shamanism and polytheism. Just like the beliefs of many other indigenous people all over the world.

Living of the nature has formed the original conceptions of the world among Sámi; the world view was animistic by nature, with shamanistic features. They believe that all objects in the nature have a soul. Therefore, everybody is expected to move quietly in the wilderness; shouting and making disturbance is not allowed. The marks on the forehead of the tourists after visiting a shaman mean they have been in contact with a reindeer’s soul and are called to return to Lapland in shape of a reindeer.after their death.

The shaman has often a ceremonial drum known as goavddis in Northern Sami and gievrie in Southern Sami, but he does not have a ceremonial dress. He is probably also yoiking in the important ceremonies. The drum has been referred to as a magic drum or fortune-telling drum by the Sami’s neighbors, and the shaman is considered to be a “magician”.


The drum was originally an instrument for the shaman when he was going into trance. The monotone drumming helped him to reach the trance. That was very much condemned by the community and judges gave various punishments: fines, imprisonment, flogging and even death if the shaman did not stop using drum ceremonies. The Sami tried to defend themselves by stating that the drum was used as a `compass’, and even as a `calendar’, but the judges were not convinced. A larger number of drums were burned during the 17th and 18th centuries, although some 70 are still preserved. Nowadays drums are manufactured again.

The ceremonial drum, linked to the shaman, has paintings on the membrane. The fortune-telling drum has a wealth of pictures, which are a source of inspiration for Sami artists, but which are difficult to interpret.

Some of the most common pictures on the drums are The sun (Beaivvás), The moon (Mámmu), The salmon (Guolli), The reindeer (Boazu), The Goddess of fertility (Varalden), The God of hunting (Leibolmmái), The Shaman drum (Goavddis) and The God of thunder (Diermmes). Taigakoru in Lapland manufactures silver jewelry with symbols from the shaman drum.

The sunThe moonsalmon The reindeerThe godess of fertility  God of hunting shaman drum the god of thunder



A file of reindeer

I believe everyone knows by now I am absolutely fascinated by reindeer; and that means not only the Santa Claus’ reindeer, but all reindeer all over Lapland, the ones you meet when you are in the wilderness and the ones brought into the city to meet tourists and inhabitants of Rovaniemi.

IMG_8861In the city of Rovaniemi they have in the year 2010 gathered a file of reindeer (pororaito) in the park area outside the administrative center with the library and the Lappia house, and also inside the center. The file of reindeer consists of five pieces of art in forms of reindeer and they are spread very nicely all over the park. Everyone of them is unique and perfect in its own way. I, myself, has many times visited the park in different seasons of the year and I never stop admiring the beauty of these pieces of art.

They first one of the five art pieces you may notice as you drive by the park are the two statues of reindeer standing by the road. The artist Tom Engblom explains why he has chosen to name the work: “Are we standing in the way?” He explains the reindeer are usually seen in the forests but also very often, too often, they are seen on the roads and unfortunately many of them are killed by cars as they usually move around in the evenings after sun set or during the period of kaamos, the Polar night, in winter. So Tom Engblom says that usually these creatures are actually “in the way”. There is two different reindeer, one is a female reindeer – a doe – and one is a male reindeer – a bull. The statues are made of cement ant colored in the same color as the traffic obstacles found all over the city, the “betoniporsaat”, and that makes the meaning “are we in the way” even more interesting.



IMG_8859The next piece in the file of reindeer is “A Bounce” that stands near the door to the library. The Lappish artist Teuvo Tuomivaara has made the statue out of wood and steel. The statue is of course a reindeer, but you can also imagine the antlers to describe sunbeams.





The piece of art “Marsh to out” is made by Risto Immonen of plain steel. There is a two-dimensional expression as the reindeer so to say walks out from itself and there is only the hole left. As you look at the sculpture from different angles you see the movement and the sculpture changes into different shapes. The piece of steel weighs about 600 kg and is 200 x 250 cm big. It is not made of stainless steel, so the sculpture will change during time due to the corrosion of rust. 


Behind the administrative center, in a narrow corner on the back yard stands a reindeer statue made of Sauli Miettunen. The name of the art piece is “Part of Nature” and it is made of cement, pieces of stones, concrete material and steel. The reindeer has really large antlers in form of a big tree and stands in a position as if it has been scared by a car or so.




IMG_8396Sauli Miettunen has also created the sculpture, “The calf” on the wall inside the Administrative center. It is made of stainless steel all over and consists of two different structures that make the calf look like it is moving as you watch it from different angles. Very beautiful. Sauli Miettunen describes his works: Everything is part of nature: the trees, the stones and the animals.

In addition there are a number of other objects that show the influence reindeer herding has had on Rovaniemi and Lapland all over the city of Rovaniemi. Here are some examples:

045 039 IMG_8522 poropins IMG_2408


Reindeer for tourist attractions and herding

Let me tell you about my, for the time being, favorite animal, the Lappish reindeer. I just love their big, dark brown eyes and their slow movements in the Lappish nature. I have had the fortune during my stay in Lapland to see lots of reindeer in different seasons and in different places. I have met almost tame reindeer and been able to touch their heads and their backs. I have of course also many times pressed the breaks in my car because there is one or more reindeer on the road. I even once saw a reindeer sleeping in the middle of the road.

IMG_2291 IMG_6464a


In Lapland all reindeer are domesticated. So all reindeer hunting is prohibited. Reindeer have been herded for centuries by the Sami people. They all keep and have kept reindeer for meat, hides and antlers. Earlier they also milked the reindeer and used them for transportation. In Siberia they even used the reindeer for riding. But then we need to remember that the Siberian reindeer are larger than their Lapland relatives.

They roam freely on pasture grounds in the north of Finland, Sweden and Norway. In traditional nomadic reindeer herding, the herders migrated with their herds between coast and inland areas by the same migration routes, and herds are keenly looked after.

IMG_2880 IMG_8536

Even if they were tamed for milking and for use as aught animals or pack-load beasts, still the large majority of reindeer have never been bred in captivity. The female reindeer calves in the spring in May. At this time the doe can nurse its calf without worrying about annoying insect swarms that come later. During summer the most important food for the reindeer is birch leaves, grass and lichen.

Even if the reindeer has been domesticated, they still are quite timid and will avoid people. During the mating period in autumn I have been warned to be a little careful to be near male reindeer. They may attack if provoked. Lapland’s predators, such as the wolverine, bear and wolf, are the natural enemies of the reindeer.

IMG_4942 IMG_2700

The Sami people also use reindeer in running competitions. The yearly arranged Reindeer cup in Lapland has many spectators; both tourists and inhabitants. In the middle of Rovaniemi city they also arrange a reindeer run every year in the middle of March.




I have, as many tourists, also bought me a reindeer hide. People preparing the skins nail the skins on a wall to dry out. When the fat of the skin dries on the surface of the hide, it gets water-repellent. The dried skins are nice to lie on. Thus these skins are much used on sledges in winter. Otherwise you can use the reindeer hide even in summer to sit or sleep on. When you visit a Lappish teepee you’ll notice the ever-present reindeer hides.

2013-04-30 14.53.28

Reindeer skins are used for making bags, slippers, mittens and footwear. In the Sami language one type of footwear is called “nuvttot” which has the hairy side out. Reindeer suede and leather are suitable for making clothes. Reindeer skin is thin and easy to shape. It’s also comfortable to wear.

There are also a lot of products made from reindeer horn, such as handles, buttons and key fobs among other things.

IMG_0623In Rovaniemi they even have their own police-reindeer, Artturi. Other cities use to have police-dogs or -horses….:) Artturi is here watching over the reindeer cup in Rovaniemi city in March 2012.






Celebrating the spring’s arrival on First of May

On First of May we celebrate workers’ day in Finland as in many other countries. It is also celebrated by students as their special day, mostly in University cities. Actually the Finnish “Vappu” is celebrated among students for almost a week’s time. The students dress up in their overalls in different colors depending on at which faculty they are studying.

2013-04-30 16.17.16

In Rovaniemi the main spring celebration among students takes place on the evening before First of May, on April 30th. There is a happening in the park near the lumberjack bridge, where there is a statue of a lumberjack working. The feast starts with some horn music and there are several speeches to the spring held by celebrities of Rovaniemi, such as the mayor’s (Esko Lotvonen) speech.

After that starts the students’ part of the feast. The audience is told to put their graduation caps on and a choir of students sings the “Gaudeamus Igitur”. “Gaudeamus Igitur” (“So Let Us Rejoice”) or just “Gaudeamus”, is a popular academic song in many European countries, mainly sung or performed at university graduation ceremonies. Despite its use as a formal graduation hymn, it is a jocular composition that pokes fun at university life. All students at a university own a graduation cap they got at the graduation from the senior high school and people in the audience use to bring their old graduation caps and put them on together with the students at this occasion. This evening and on First of May is the only days during the year you may wear your white graduation cap.

2013-04-30 17.38.12Then a couple of students climb up to the statue of the lumberjack and give him his yearly wash and finally they put a graduation cap on him, too. This is a special made graduation cap because of the big size of his head.

2013-04-30 17.42.28

2013-04-30 17.44.11

The feast ends with a traditional washing of this year’s new student; “fuksukylpy”. This bath is taken care of by the Fire Department and is merely compulsory for the new students to take part in. This is a very wet experience for them and it amuses the audience a lot to see these poor students getting all wet. I have to say, I do not understand why…. Some of them are very clever and take off all their clothes before entering into the beam of water from the fire department’s pipes.

2013-04-30 17.58.06 2013-04-30 17.57.17



Nice souvenirs to bring home from Lapland

In the shops of Rovaniemi and specially at the Santa Claus Village on the Arctic Circle you can find a lot of special Lappish souvenirs to buy. My aim here is not to mention them all. That would be absolutely impossible. I will mention just a few.

I, myself, find the hand-made dolls from the Arctic Doll Factory really adorable. They are all dressed up in traditional dresses of the Lappish people. The dresses are made from normal fabric but also using reindeer furs. On the home page of the factory (unfortunately not in English) you can see there are dolls of all kinds of lengths, boys and girls, and in differently colored dresses, and you can order your own favorite from there, too. The factory was founded in 1953 and is celebrating 60 years this year. After I had dreamed about getting one of these dolls for myself for several years I finally decided and bought myself an adorable couple; Matti and Maila.

IMG_2455 IMG_2456 IMG_2460

Taigakoru is a goldsmith’s workshop for silver and gold jewelry in Rovaniemi. From the home page of Taigakoru you find all the different jewelry they manufacture. One of the most well-known part of the collection is the collection of symbols from the ancient shaman drums.

The shaman drum was used by the shamans of the Northern peoples in their ceremonies. Shamans were healers and predicted the future. They called on the spirits for help by beating a drum with a drumstick made from reindeer bone until they fell into a trance. The symbols appear on the drum’s different parts. The upper part of the drum skin represented the heavens, the middle part earth and earthly life and the lower part Tuonela, the underworld. The shaman used the symbols on the various parts of the drum to foretell events. Each symbol has its own meaning.


The Sun and good weather, particularly during the reindeer calving season, made crops grow and it brought good fortune. After midwinter, people held festivals when the sun first edged over the horizon. They made sacrifices to it so that it would restore and bring vitality to creation. The sun has a very special significance in the Arctic, as during the period of the polar night in winter the sun does not rise above the horizon at all, and on the other hand in the summertime it does not set at all.


Other symbols from the Shaman drum made to ornaments in silver by Taigakoru are: The Moon, Ukko or the God of Thunder, Akka or the Goddess of fertility, the God of hunting, the Black-throated loon, the Crane, the Bear, the Reindeer, the Wolf, the Beaver, the Boat, the Salmon and the Rota.

Other famous jewelry of Taigakoru are the Guardian angel and the Cradle ball. There are also all kinds of Lappish animals and plants in silver. From the home page you can also order your own jewelry.

Marttiini has manufactured knives in Rovaniemi, Finland, since Janne Marttiini established the knife factory in 1928. The Marttiini product range covers knives for hunting, fishing, camping, collectors, household and professional use.


Inspired by the ancient tales from Lapland (again). The drum at the end of the handle, made of reindeer horn bone, drives away bad spirits and protects the user. The knife is decorated with the same kind of old Lappish figures that have been used at the magical drums of Lappish shamans, as the Taigakoru uses in their production. As you can notice, these figures are the symbols for the ancient Lappish people and their culture, which manufactures these days want to share with tourists and locals, who search for the real Lappish mystique.

Reindeer skin mittens is the most traditional souvenir you can imagine bringing home from Lapland. These mittens are made out of Lappish reindeer skin with collar decoration from Finnish sheep wool, dyed in natural plants. These mittens are very soft but I can asure you they are very durable and warm. You can also find warm woollen hats in the same pattern.

Some cute Lappish souvenirs are made by Peeva tuote; a small home factory for elf themes, Lapland themes and angel themes products. Each and every souvenir is special and hand made, often with material from the forests of Lapland. There are not two of the same kind! The most adorable is the doll house with elves Peeva tuote has on show near the stand on the Lordi square in Rovaniemi, where you can buy these products.




The Sámis and their reindeer

Tourists arrive in Rovaniemi and wonder: Where are the Sámis and the reindeer? Well, I can tell, there are a few opportunities to see Sámis and reindeer also in Rovaniemi, but mostly the Finnish Sámis are seen in their own region – in the upper north of Finland where they have lived for centuries. On the map you see the area where the Sámis live in Scandinavia and Russia and they even have their own flag.

karta över samerSami_flag.svg (1)


Rovaniemi belongs to Lapland and is even the capital of Lapland but the city seems to be just like any other city most of the time of the year. The sámis turn up in the city on their yearly sámi meeting in January; the Sámi thing. In February there are reindeer races both on the trotting track of Rovaniemi as well as in the middle of the city center. These yearly events are popular for the tourists but also for the local people. At least I have attended these events several times. You are surprised how hard these reindeer really run! In the city of Rovaniemi there is even a police-reindeer, named Artturi. His mother was also a police-reindeer, Maija, but she unfortunately was killed by a car the other year.



On the Arctic circle in the Santa Claus village you can meet sámis and their reindeer daily during tourist season around Christmas and also admire the beautiful dresses the sámis wear. By paying a small fee you can take a tour with some beautiful reindeer and you can also discuss the herding and the culture with a local sámi. Some years there has been arranged a sámi park also in the city center of Rovaniemi around Christmas.




IMG_4900 IMG_4954IMG_8536 IMG_2270

I am really crazy about reindeer. I just love these animals! At every opportunity I get I take photos of reindeer. I have got quite a few during these years. Mostly I see them out near the road, but on the Arctic circle they are so nicely fixed with ornaments and the reindeer brought there are so tame you can even touch them.


The nicest ornaments on reindeer I saw on a trip once to the sámi area of Russia, Lovozero. We attended a reindeer market where the Russian sámis showed up their beautiful animals and also competed with them on reindeer races.

IMG_3564 IMG_3563



In Rovaniemi, the capital of Lapland, there are also reindeer statues in the parks.  IMG_8394IMG_8045IMG_5520

The Sámi people, also spelled Saami, are the indigenous people inhabiting the Arctic area of Sápmi, which today encompasses parts of far northern Sweden, Norway, Finland, the Kola Peninsula of Russia. IMG_2972The Sámis are the only indigenous people of Scandinavia recognized and protected under the international conventions of indigenous peoples, and hence the northernmost indigenous people of Europe. Their traditional languages are the Sámi languages and are classified as a branch of the Uralic language family. Traditionally, the Sámis have pursued a variety of livelihoods, including coastal fishing, fur trapping and sheep herding. Their best-known means of livelihood is semi-nomadic reindeer herding, with which about 10% of the Sámi are currently connected and 2,800 actively involved on a full-time basis. For traditional, environmental, cultural and political reasons, reindeer herding is legally reserved only for Sámi people in certain regions of the Nordic countries.

shamantrummaFor tourist groups there is arranged meetings with an original sámi shaman. These meetings are surrounded by a lot of secrecy and it is very exciting for the tourists. The shaman sits in his Lappish tepee and by the fireplace he cooks his coffee, hits his drum and starts telling stories to the guests. At the end of the ceremony he makes some marks of soot from the fireplace in the forehead of the guests and tells them they will eventually return to Lapland one day in the shape of a reindeer. That is not a bad destiny, is it?