By Elin Kåven
Every year I get asked about Sami Christmas traditions. People say it is really hard to find anything about this topic.
Here is why: It’s because the Sami Christmas traditions aren’t actually Sami traditions.
Christmas is a christian holiday that was introduced to the Sami people by our christian colonizers.
We Sami people had our own indigenous worldview before we were introduced to christianity.
So when you hear about Sami Christmas traditions today, – what they are talking about is not an ancient Sami tradition, it’s a tradition that we have adopted from our colonizers. It’s our colonizers tradition done in the Sami way, you could say. .
That means we buy Christmas gifts in the shop (maybe from Sami shops), we sing the christian Christmas songs translated to Sami language, we go to church wearing a gákti.
BUT It has been many generations since we got colonized, so the christian traditions have been passed on for generations in some parts of Sapmi. That’s why some Samis can argue that it is their tradition to celebrate a christian christmas. Especially if they are very christian.
Because at what point can we say we have adapted our colonizers tradition and culture to such degree that they have become our own?
When I did my own research many years ago, and asked my grandmother how she celebrated Christmas, she said that she never celebrated Christmas until she learned how to from her children. Her children, my mother included, went to boarding school in Kárásjohka, and they brought home the tradition of Christmas – with a Christmas tree, cakes, gifts, decorations and songs. That is how she learned it.
So traditionally, originally, before colonization – Sami people did not celebrate Christmas. But like everyone else, we did have some traditions connected to the winter and dark season.
Buorit juovllat! Merry Christmas!
Read more about Sami christmas here:
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