Known simply in Swedish as Jokkmokks marknad, the town’s 400-year-old Great Winter Market (w jokkmokksmarknad.se) traces its origins back to 1602, when King Karl IX decreed that a series of market sites should be set up in the north to help extend Swedish territory and increase taxes to fund his many wars. A chapel, a parsonage and a row of market sheds were built in Jokkmokk, and the rest is history. Today the market is held on the first Thursday to Sunday of each February, when thirty thousand people force their way into town – ten times the normal population. It’s the best (and coldest) time of year to be here; with lots of drunken stallholders trying to flog reindeer hides and other unwanted knick-knacks to even more drunken passers-by, there’s a Wild West feeling in the air at this time. Held on the frozen Talvatissjön lake behind Hotell Jokkmokk, the reindeer races run during the market can be a real spectacle, as man and beast battle it out on a specially marked-out ice track. The reindeer, however, often have other ideas and every now and then veer off with great alacrity into the crowd, sending spectators fleeing for cover. A smaller, historical market is held on the proceeding Monday to Wednesday, when people dress in traditional costume and put on various theatrical performances.
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