Have you ever imagined what it feels like to be Santa Claus, being pulled on a sled behind nine reindeer??? Me neither. However, during our one of a kind stay at the Reindeer Lodge outside Kiruna, Sweden, this long spoken tradition became a reality. Reindeer have long been an important component of the livelihood of the Sami people, who are indigenous to Lappland, the northern region of Sweden. Their hide is used as means to stay warm, their antlers as tools, and their meat for sustenance. In the span of twelve hours with the Sami people we fell in love with the reindeer and the people’s simple way of life. Reindeer are seemingly gentle in nature and welcomed us with open antlers. We started our encounter by sharing a lunch of Sami bread and reindeer meat in a teepee warmed by a wood fire. The smell of the burning birch wood made for a warm home-like feeling that lingered for hours. The meat was very lean and had a taste similar to pastrami. The savory smoked flavor enveloped each taste bud individually and made it jump for joy. The next part of our reindeer adventure was racing each other around a track driving reindeer sleds. We each had the unique opportunity to individually drive the reindeer and yell “AY AY” to get them to go faster. Some of the reindeer were moving at school bus speed while others raced off as though they were a Ferrari. After taking our reindeer for a quick spin we had the chance to bond with them. While some of our group members were reindeer whisperers, others seemed to be wearing reindeer repellant, causing the animals to bolt the other way. We hand fed them reindeer lichen, a moss that is found in their natural environment that they seemed to enjoy. Following this we pow wow’ed in the tee pee and enjoyed blueberry muffins, homemade by our Sami guide Nils’s wife. We warmed up with reindeer hides and enjoyed coffee while intently listening to Nils tell stories of his culture and traditions.
Brittney Drogo and Heather Ambrisco