In My Heart

The sauna is the most important Finnish institution.

The sauna tradition

Lapland sauna 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.

Many saunas

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 Finland.

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.

For cleansing

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