On Prancer! To Norway!
March 23, 1997
Web posted at: 12:00 a.m. EST
(CNN) -- Reindeer aren't just for Christmas -- at least in Norway, where the annual Easter Festival and World Reindeer Racing Championships begin Sunday in the towns of Kautokeino and Karasjok.
The festival celebrates the culture and traditions of the Sami (also known as Lapps), the historically semi-nomadic natives of Norway who for centuries have relied on reindeer as their livelihood.
Both professionals and tourists take part in the reindeer races. Steering a sled behind one of the frisky beasts isn't as easy as Old Saint Nick makes it look; Harold Hansen of the Norwegian Tourist Board says hanging on for dear life is key to winning.
"These reindeers are very unpredictable," he says. "Usually they run like crazy -- the crazier, the better."
You might run like crazy too, if you knew you could soon be on the dinner menu. Smoked reindeer, reindeer stew and reindeer jerky are culinary highlights of the festival.
It's also the peak season for Sami weddings. Hansen says the traditional wedding costumes are brightly colored in blue, red and yellow, with large hats formed like a star and, of course, reindeer skin boots.
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