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“The market week in Jokkmokk is in many ways an extraordinary experience. During the days leading up to the market, a curious calm descends over the entire community. The whole place vibrates with almost tangible expectation. Municipal trucks and loaders work feverishly to remove snow from the market site, parking lots and other areas in preparation for the yearly invasion.
The local recidents are busy with their own various preparations. There is food to be cooked, bread to be baked, paintings must be framed for exhibit and reindeer hides must be scraped. Many people want to look their best, and solariums, hairdressers and clothiers do a bustling trade. By Wednesday evening , anticipation is running high and patrons fill the restaurants and nightspots. On Thursday, the market, itself, bursts forth.”
Excerpt from the book “Jokkmokk – natur och kultur genom tiderna”
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The Jokkmokk market – a 400-year-old winter festival
One of the world’s oldest markets
In a time when markets have arisen and faded away, the winter market in Jokkmokk has defied the winds of change and maintained its traditions. Without exception, every year since 1606, it has reurned at the appointed time. The oldest market north of the Arctic Circle continues to thrive. Its historic role and significance during the days of wilderness self-subsistence have given way to a living tradition enjoyed by people who seek relief from the stress of modern-day living.
King Karl IX decreed in 1605 that permanent marketplaces should be established in northern Lapland. On the shores of what is now Lake Talvatis there was once a Sami winter camp. In 1606, this site became the location of a church and marketplace for the Lule Lappmark. Over the following years a customs house, merchants’stores, a church and rectory were built, which was the start of present-day Jokkmokk.
In 1607, Jokkmokk became a parish in its own right. Since the church and rectory had been built in Jokkmokk, the winter market was no longer only a commercial event. Parishioners now gathered here for weddings, christenings, funerals, for church feasts and Sunday worship. During the market, court sessions were also held, and lawbreakers were tried and sentenced.
The Jokkmokk Market was originally held around 25th January and lasted 2-3 weeks. Eventually, the need for such a lengthy market declined and the event was held during the first week of February. In the 1939’s, there were about 20 market stand and vendors and trading went on for two days.
On Market Saturday, the Sami held local councils, under the chairmanship of the county governor. This was an opportunity for the Sami to air various issues and grievances. But the authorities always took the final decision. These meetings attracted many onlookers. Sometimes there was barely room for the Sami themselves in the assembly hall, which irritated many. It was not fitting that their serious affairs should become a tourist attraction, so the meetings were eventually rescheduled for another time during the year.
Even in the 1950’s, much remained of the old market traditions. Trade in hides took place at Hotell Gästis, where various qualities of hides were piled high. The smell of rancid hides mingled with the scent of the brandy traders imbibed as they negotiated prices. Many deals were struck in cafes, where everything from the price of goods to wedding plans was discussed.
The modern market emerged in 1955 When the market celebrated its 350th anniversary, the introduction of several new features attracted many visitors to Jokkmokk. Gösta Åkerlund, a cinema and hotel owner, who was chairman of the local tourism committee, implemented the changes that laid the groundwork for the modern-day market. The number of market days was increased to three, and the number of stands from about 20 to 150. On Lake Talvatis, market-goers could see a reindeer herd, and a small circus with different animals came to Jokkmokk. Hotels, cafes and shops were redecorated in turn-of-the-century fashion and merchants wore period costumes. A special market beer was brewed for the occasion. Amul and Ibba Länta led the first reindeer ride, a parade of reindeer and sleighs, and a dance was held at the local heritage centre. These two events have become cherished traditions.
The Jokkmokk Market has evolved over the centuries. What was once a meeting- and marketplace for the Sami, pioneers and traders is now northern Europe’s biggest winter festival. The market is a multicultural meeting place where new ecperiences are guaranteed. During these market days, the tiny Lapland community north of the Arctic Circle is transformed into a bustling centre of activity and a town that never sleeps.
The people of Jokkmokk plan their activities around the market, an occasion that assumes greater importance than New Year’s. Soon after the market, the bright late-winter season begins, a time for outdoor leisure.
The market is also something of a homecoming celebration where many former Jokkmokk residents, families, friends and visitors from every corner of the world gather to have fun.
Owing to the influx of family, friends, vendors journalists and tourists during the market period, there is scarcely a bed available throughout the municipality.
The Jokkmokk Market is still an important Sami festival weekend and the Sami culture is a central feature of the wealth of cultural events held during the market days. The Sami Educational Centre is filled to overflowing with craftsmen and craftswomen who display and sell their work Students form the school also present much-appreciated exhibits. The Ájtte Swedish Mountain and Sami museum offers a full programme of lectures. Film showings, children’s’ activities, music and art shows. Musical performances are intensive, and the Sami jojk, folk and world music are now standing traditions of the market programme.
Many types of goods are sold on the market site, including fur and leather goods, sweets, handcrafted items, woollen socks, fishing equipment, reindeer sausage and T-shirts. There is always something for every taste and budget. Lake Talvatis is the scene of many winter activities and a point of departure for dogsledding and snowmobile tours, moose safaris and reindeer rides. In recent years, reindeer racing has become a popular event.
Traditionally, the market concludes with a fireworks display in the market area.
The text is from the Jokkmokk Tourism Office’s leaflet about the wintermarket
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