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The Lapp Culture Is Different

The Lapp culture, or Sami culture, is what most people from around the world connect with Lapland. The Nordic culture in Lapland is in many respects the same as any westernized culture - with local specialities and variations.

The Lapps call themselves "Sami". And the land of the Sami (Lapland) is called Sapmi in the Sami or Lapp language.

Lapp children in Lapp national costume In these pages you will see that we use both terms. Lapp and Lapland - in various forms - is the international term for the Sami and Sapmi. The international terms also work best at Internet search.

Lapp Clothing Traditions

An important part of Lapp culture is the national costume is called "gakti" in the Sami language. The costumes in the different areas of Lapland vary quite a lot in the four countries where Lapps are living. From the appearance of the "gakti" you can tell where it is from.

The costumes in the picture are typical of some parts of Finnish and Norwegian Lapland (for example Utsjoki, Karasjok and Tana)

Read more about Lapp clothing traditions.

Also read our article about the Lapp wedding where you find a description of the wedding garments.


The Lapp term for handicraft is "duodji". Duodji comprises craft, art handicraft and even domestic industries. Duodji is an important part of the Lapp culture.

Local products are made by using traditional methods and techniques. Thus Lapp culture offers a wide variety of natural products. There is a close connection between the production and nature. Handicrafts are based on the experiences of skilled craftsmen through the ages.

Lapp artist Many local artists create products that are closely connected to nature. Traditional Lapp artists and craftsmen use wood, bone, horn and leather as their raw materials. Others work with bead embroidery and embroidery with tin thread, weaving and textiles.

Read more about sami handicraft.

Art in Lapp Culture

The Lapp pictorial art may go as far back as to the old rock arts and from decorations on different objects. It could even stem from the figures or drawings on the shamans drum where themes drawn from the pre-christian era, and from nature. You can see Lapp art at some art centres and museums.

Nowadays the pictorial arts and sculpture are more common in the Lapp culture.

Food Tradition in Lapp culture

The main ingredients of Sami food have been meat and fish. Important supplements were herbs and berries. The dishes may vary from area to area. You may even find differences between families.

The cloudberry and other berries are also important parts of Sami food traditions. Read more about berry picking. Also read more about Lapp food traditions here. Sami food is certainly worth trying!

King Crab

What about a King Crab evening at the shores of Norwegian Lapland fiords? The catching season for the King Crab starts in October and goes on till December.

Delicacy of Lapland Red King Crab The King Crab (latin paralithodes camtschaticus) is the highest valued species of Norwegian Lapland fisheries. The reason for this is, of course, that it has become a delicacy throughout the world. The Red King Crab is the world's largest crab species.

This crab was taken from the Pacific Ocean in the early 1960's to European Arctic waters by the Soviets. They moved around 13.000 crabs plus 1.5 million larva. They were taken mainly from the Kamchatka Peninsula area. They were all dropped into the Murmansk fiord in north western Russia (then Soviet Union).

In Norwegian Lapland they even have a King Crab Festival called The Polar Spectacle. This festival marks the start of the catching season in October.

Family Relationships

Familiy ties have always been strong in Lapp culture. Terms for deciding what kind of family relationship you have with a person are much more sofisticated in Lapp than in the Nordic languages. The terms are also more precise. This shows that the family was important - and it still is.

In the Lapp language a child's name even nowadays shows who the father (or mother) is. This system tells you what family the child belongs to. A Lapp name often contains the names of three generation - the child's, her father's and her grandfather's.

A kind of ritual relationship is maintained through godfathers and godmothers. Lapp children usually have many more of them than in western cultures.

Lapp Symbols

The Lapp culture has undergone great changes during the 1970s. In the 1990s, the land of the Sami (Lapland) got new national symbols. These give them a new sense of unity.

The blue, red, green and yellow flag of the Sami flag flies from the poles in conferences and meetings. Lapp flag

The Sami national anthem was written by Isak Saba in the early 1900s. Read the national anthem in Sami and in English and listen to the song.

Sami representatives attend official conferences of indigenous peoples in all parts of the world. Today the Sami also have many official flag-raising days, including February the 6th, which is the Sami national holiday. It commemorates the first Nordic Sami conference in 1917.

Sami ethnicity is often expressed on a symbolic level. This has to do with the "awakening" of the Sami that has taken place the last decades. In the early 1970s, young Sami became aware of their Sami heritage and were willing to fight for it. This was a reaction to a long process of assimilation.

Read our small article about some of the Sami symbols.

Lapp Religion and Beliefs

The old Lapp religion was animistic. The Lapps believed that everything in nature had a soul.

The christening of the Lapps didn't really start until the 1700s. From then on chapels and schools were built in Lapland. From the middle of the 1840's the Laestadian movement had an enormous impact on Lapland society, including the Sami society.

Read more about the old Lapp religion and the Lapp church festival. Read also about the Lapp confirmation.

Lapp Music

An important part of the Lapp culture is the music. Lapp music is often connected with the traditional "yoik" which is the oldest and best known musical form. The "yoik" is a combination of using your voice both to sing the lyric and to use it as an instrument. You find the "yoik" all over Lapland with some variations in style. The "yoik" often depicts situations, persons and animals.

The "yoik" has not always been accepted by society. In connection with the christening of the Lapps, "yoiking" was concidered a sinful practice. Many Lapps even adopted this view. But nowadays the "yoik" has been accepted by most. Now it's even accepted in church.

Read more about the yoik.

Within Lapp music we find musicians in different branches like pop music, hymns, ethno music, ballads, jazz, dance music, rock, rap and techno music.

And take the opportunity to listen to three outstanding contemporary Lapp artists.

Santa Claus

Especially in Finnish Lapland the belief in Santa Claus is strong. There is a Santa Claus village right on the Arctic Circle at Rovaniemi. Many tourists from all around the world visit Santa all year round. Here you can find out a little more about Santa himself.

Theater and Film

Lapp theater and film not been around for a long time. The Lapp national theater, "Beaivvas Sami Theater" has its headquarters at Kautokeino. This theater was founded in 1979 as a regional theater. It tours large parts of Lapland on a regular basis.

Another Lapp theater was founded in 1980. It is the South Sami Theater "Ã…aerjelhsaemien teater" in Mo i Rana.

Lapp film has a short history in the Lapp culture. The first Lapp films based on stories about Lapps were the films "Laila" and "Sami Jakki". The first Lapp film with a world wide success was the Oscar-nominated "Pathfinder" from the 1980s. The latest international Lapp film success is "The Kautokeino Rebellion". Both films were created by Nils Gaup who is a Lapp himself.


The Sami took their daily bread from nature by fishing, reindeer herding and hunting. The Sami of old were hunters. Even today many male Laps are still hunters.

Other traditional activities that are still an important part of the Lapland lifestyle are fishing and berry picking. Even in winter we do some ice-fishing on lakes by drilling holes in the ice.

Reindeer herding, small scale agriculture, duodji (handicraft) and utilizing nature are considered Lapp livelihoods. Read more about the reindeer

Today Lapps in many ways live like their other Nordic brethren. Lapps, too, are dependant on the Finnish, Norwegian and Swedish societies they live within both economically and in terms of knowledge and education. The majority of Lapps today earn their living from service industries.

Lapland culture

The Lapp culture is the culture of the Lapps or the Sami people. But we may also talk about a Lapland culture which can simply be defined as the cultural mix of the Lapp culture and the Nordic cultures of Lapland.

Read this article with some simple thoughts about the Lapland culture.

Sami artists

Read about the famous Sami artist Aillohas

Free Reindeer Photography Tips

Sometimes you get the impression that reindeer are everywhere. Take the opportunity to take home nice shots of reindeer. Amateur photographers may find something useful by checking these reindeer photography tips.

Sami museums

The Sami museums exhibit the different aspects of traditional Sami culture. Here you'll find interesting stuff about Sami museums i all three Nordic parts of Lapland. Read about the main Sami museums.

Further Reading

Here you can get a deeper insight into the Lapp culture (or Sami culture).
And here is another excellent source for more knowledge about the Lapps and other indigenous peoples.
Read also about the Skolt Sami.

Lapland Blog

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