Wednesday, February 22, 2012

A Reindeer Carneval in the winter

Nowadays Finns are mostly Protestants, but the old traditions are still alive. Around year 1000AD (plus or minus a few hundred years) the evil Swedes came over the sea and started spreading the word of god. By sword point, I guess.

40 days before Easter is the Lent, and before lent is some kind of carneval where people have fun and eat a lot of food (meat). In Finland it's called Laskiainen. As always, the church had replaced the local celebrations with it's own. In Finland it used to be a feast for celebrating the end of spinning, when women had turned all the wool, hemp and flax from the previous summer into thread, and the rise of the sun. All kinds of magic had to be performed to get good crops the next year.

Then the killjoy Luther decided the catholics had it all wrong and started the reformation. And as we were no more catholics, we had no Lent. But Laskiainen stayed, with a mixture of pagan and christian superstitions. Nowadays it's a feast of pea-soup, pan cakes and skiing and sledding.

The city organized an event in the market square to celebrate Laskiainen. They had spent a week building a small skating rink, a weird snow castle, and a few hills of snow for kids to slide down.

Toddlers liked climbing the wall of the castle.

Kids liked sliding down the slope between the walls.

Adults liked looking at the naked woman inside the castle.

"King Of The Hill" can be played on any pile of snow.
Another big draw to the event was the reindeers. The kids had the chance to practice roping them by throwing "suopunki" (lasso) at reindeer antlers on the ground. Kids were also given rides in the sledges pulled by tamed reindeer:

You don't see reindeer around Oulu, but go 100 kilometers northeast and you'll find them walking on the roads. The big herds are further north in the Lapland, where reindeer herding in the wilderness is a traditional source of livelihood of the Same. In southern Finland the lack of free range (due to urbanization, farming and logging in the last few hundred years) has forced the reindeer out.

Main reason for the reindeers being in the town was "reindeer sprint", in which the reindeer runs 1/8th mile (a bit over 200 meters) towing a guy or a girl on skis. Those reindeers are half-tame.

This lone reindeer was tied to a tree about 25 meters from the others, and you can see it fighting to get loose so it could get closer to the others. Or maybe he was just planning to leave the town all together.  

The lone reindeer kept fighting the rope so the handlers decided to move it to a tree closer to the others. They told the parents to get their kids away before they untied the reindeer and that's when it "attacked" me. Not very scary for a country boy who has lead cattle by rope, but getting trampled or kicked in the shins would hurt anyway. I guess the feisty ones make good racing reindeers?
One street has been closed for traffic and turned into a race track. There wasn't many people by the fence when I took the photo, about one hour before the race.
 But as the race was not about to begin, the fence could be opened so people could get through:
 Here's the start area. The reindeers get in the box, and once the doors open the race is on. Maybe I should tell you one of those ads on the box is for reindeer meat.
So if you don't want to be sold as pelt and sausages...
Furs, reindeer meat, wool clothes etc was sold at the market.
... you better run, Rudolf!
Here's a short clip showing two first pairs of the reindeer sprint. I'm not quite sure what the rules are, but the skier must not fall before the finish line. That I know for sure.

And as usual, the annotations button is grayed out and I can't add any. Blah!

No comments:

Post a Comment