G.A.Andersson: “The Rovaniemi Market”
Since the parish of Rovaniemi is extremely far-reaching, its area being 8,251.8 square kilometres, inhabitants from villages who have to make long and troublesome journeys are able to visit church only now and then. Church visits are commonly arranged as “church festivals” which, in the old days, already existed for the celebration of Christ-mas, Easter, Lady Day, Midsummer, St. Michael’s and All Saints’ Day. These festive events take place in their own way as a market in the village, as people who embark on a church trip also simultaneously purchase all types of basic goods. At times like this, the village is swarming with people, and even as late as a few years ago, a large group of peddlers even from afar, selling trinkets and all types of commodities, had the habit of arriving at this market even from far away—along with swindlers. As a result, sales were completed as would be expected at the market during the eve of the festival and its sub-sequent days.
Nevertheless, the actual, officially permitted market takes place in February, and lasts for 3 days. About ten years ago, Rovaniemi’s February market was still the most notable in the area. Extremely large quantities of money would circulate through this market, and the trade in goods was extensive, as the majority of goods from Lapland and regions above were exchanged for money there, and the people from the lands above would pur-chase their basic goods from the market. Buyers of Lappish commodities, fur products, reindeer pelts and reindeer meat did not arrive at the market only from the native coun-try—from southern Finland, for instance—but also from abroad. Here, several agricul-tural merchants representing various interests from Lapland and regions above met rep-resentatives of the wholesale trade and commodity brokers, placing their orders with them amidst the market’s bustle, and paying for their former orders with money or ”long notes”. As several log businesses regularly remitted advance payments to timber mer-chants for log sales or paid their final sums for timber deals, all this, on its part, had the effect that more money was exchanged at the Rovaniemi winter market than in some small villages over the year as a whole.
One writer describes the Rovaniemi market as follows:
”The road running through both sides of the borough is boxed in, so that the houses behind do not quite come into view. And the goods there are plentiful. For the most part, they are foreign trinkets, without which the people of Lapland—like the rest of Finland—could get along quite well. Itinerant traders come all the way from Helsinki and Tampere. At a high charge (the residents of Rovaniemi certainly know the value of money), a few square metres of land are rented in front of some house along the road. A booth is knocked together of boards and canvas there, where the goods are spread out for view, and the shop is ready. For the length of a kilometre, these sorts of booths are found on both sides of the road, and gradually the market folks glide in twos towards the midst of them. The products are examined and bargaining goes on….
”Men and women of many kinds can be seen there—and in a wide variety of garb. Majestic in appearance, the men of Sodankylä and Kittilä stroll along in their reindeer hide garments: beautiful colours, a stately bearing and a proud gaze. A pleasant sight for the eyes: the men are taciturn unless they happen to have had too much to drink. They are just as uncommunicative when doing business. When they ask about a product and hear the price, they think a little while and then exclaim ‘take this amount or this much’. If it is not available at that price, then the sale does not happen. It is also futile to com-pliment the goods and give them praise.
”A crowd of men have gathered in the middle of the road. At the centre, there are a couple of men from the south who are practising their trade. They are timepiece sellers, learned and shrewd. It is heard that an excellent Waltham model has been obtained from America, from an ”uncle” who, because he is in need of money, is now selling it cheaply. And what comes around goes around—some fool purchases the timepiece (which the seller possesses in scores) sent by “an uncle in America” for two to three times the price. Somewhere in the yard, drinks are being served in honour of putting the roof on, and the same seller as usual knows how to advise others where they can buy the sort of “lemonade” that costs 10 Finnish marks per tankard.
”A peak-capped Tatar dressed in a caftan, glancing from left to right and causing quite a fuss while shouting ’Oostaka, oostaka’ [‘Buy this! Buy this!’] proceeds along the road. Pieces of cloth are drooping from his arms as well as some fur lining made of brown hare hides, which the Muslim is feverishly trying to sell as real ‘Siberian leather’. Nor-mally he demands a four-fold price for his goods—and still makes a profit of 100% if some fool offers him half the sum he is calling for! No wonder why it’s worth it for the Tatar to pay, for instance, 100 – 200 Finnish marks in rent for his sales booth site, drag a wagonload of stuff all the way from Helsinki, and also employ 5 or 6 shop assistants!” […]
The Rovaniemi Market also has its shady side, of course, like all markets in general. First of all, all sorts of wheelers-and-dealers gather at the market, and under normal con-ditions illicit trade in spirits went on to a large extent, with the consequence that numer-ous drunks were seen there. Secondly, many hurry to this market even from remote vil-lages who do not have any business to be there: rather, they arrive at the market only out of the urge for merriment and to revel in wasting their money. For many, an entire week goes to no purpose without producing any real use. However, despite these disadvan-tages, the Rovaniemi Market must, even nowadays, be given great economic signifi-cance, because during that time it is known that the village folks of the upper regions are purchasers of the products from those same regions as well as from Lapland, and that they pay a higher price than what can be obtained at other periods. Also in the sale of other commodities, competition rages during the period of the Market, so vigorous ex-change of goods reigns. Besides, the Market has become the deadline for debts and ac-quisition of payments, so it has importance in many respects.
(Rovaniemen kuvauksia [Descriptions of Rovaniemi], pp. 65-67).
Land of the Arctic Circle
Mountain of the
From sleigh rides to the
age of the Concorde
The nearest real hotel
Santa Claus Land
A city called by many
names - and the heroes
take the spoils