The sauna is the most important Finnish institution.
The sauna tradition
You find a sauna everywhere in Finland. You find them in most homes, in cottages and in hotels. And the
sauna buildings often taken many forms. This picture shows a rare floating Lapland sauna in Pello in Finnish Lapland.
The sauna has a long history. In Finland it goes at least a thousand years back in history.
According to tradition the sauna was so important to the Finns that when settling at a new place, their first building was the sauna.
Here they lived, ate and slept, and even gave birth - until the other buildings were completed.
Even after the other buildings were erected, women still gave birth in the sauna because it was often the cleanest
building and had water available.
There are probably more than two million saunas in Finland. In private homes there are more than 1.2 million saunas
and another 800,000 in cottages and public places like swimming pools and so on. This is a conciderable number
for a total population of 5.2 million in
The sauna is a small room inside the house or flat, or a hut, heated to around 80 Centigrades (176 F).
This induces relaxation and promotes sweating. It is used for bathing as well as for mental
and physical wellbeing. A sauna session can also be a social affair.
A hot sauna may seem like a punishment to the newbie. But it is a pleasant experience.
You can start with a shower. Then you go into the sauna for a few minutes. When you feel you had enough, take
a refreshing shower and cool down for some time. Then you may repeat the cycle once or twice. And there is no need to worry.
It is safe.
The Finns also use a bundle of birch twigs with fresh leaves ('vihta'), to slap the skin and thus
stimulate the pores and cells.
The Finns also use the sauna as a place of cleansing the mind and refresh the spirit. Traditionally the sauna was even
used to prepare the dead for burial. The sauna is an important part of daily Finnish life.
Originally the sauna was meant to be a place of mystical nature where gender/sex differences did not exist.
The Finns are a special nation of sauna-users in the sense that they have kept the tradition alive and adjusted
it to their modern lifestyle. And they have spread the sauna round the world under
the trademark made in Finland.
Read more about
the sauna as a very special Finnish institution
Where the Reindeer Roam