Jokkmokk Winter Market: The Winter Market at the centre of Swedish Lapland
By Xander Brett | Photos: Jokkmokk Marknad
For three days each February, tens of thousands of people – vendors from all corners of the country, and visitors from all over the world – descend on the small Swedish town of Jokkmokk. They’ve come for the famous Jokkmokk Winter Market, an event established over four hundred years ago.
Charles IX initiated a market at Jokkmokk. Determined to convert nomadic herders, and to keep watch on coastal traders, he ordered churches and markets to be established across northern Sweden. It means there has been a winter market here since 1606, and now the town of Jokkmokk is preparing to celebrate its next edition, from 2 to 4 February 2023. After two years of pandemic adaptations, organiser Birgitta Nilsson says it is nice to have normality restored. “2021 was a spooky year,” she says. “Usually, we have 50,000 visitors up here. That year, I looked out to an empty expanse.”
Located just above the Arctic Circle, in the centre of Norrbotten county, Jokkmokk is surrounded by nomadic Sami herding grounds. Nilsson says the market is important to the Sami, both as an opportunity for them to meet up, and to sell their handicraft, either in the market or in the town’s educational centre. She is also keen to point out other activities in the surrounding area: dog sledding, snowmobiling and reindeer racing amongst them. Visitors, she says, are predominantly Swedish, though overseas tourists are pulled in by the chance to catch a glimpse of the Northern Lights. High-quality handicraft, however, is the market’s primary draw, setting it apart from the generic sweets-and-t-shirts versions down south. For over four hundred years, for three days in the snowy depths of winter, the small town’s purpose has remained unbroken: Jokkmokk becomes the social centre of Swedish Lapland.
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