Finland and the sauna – the key to Finnish everyday culture

Finland is known as the land of a thousand lakes and the home of the sauna. Hardly any other element is such an important part of Finnish everyday culture as the sauna.

A sauna in Finland
A sauna in Finland

It is considered key to Finnish culture and an important element of northern European quality of life.

The popularity given to sauna culture in Finland is now so great that, in addition to special Finnish saunas, traditions of the sweat room have also been able to gain a foothold on an international level.

But all those who plan the sauna bath in a German wellness oasis according to instructions and hourglass should forget what they have already learned before entering the Finnish sauna.

In Finland, people like to laugh at the frippery that has been established around the world on the subject of saunas.

The laughter towards hourglass and co. is not unfounded. Ultimately, taking a sauna is part of life for the Finns.

Already in the toddler age the actually so cool Finns are brought close to the traditional sweat room. In the saunas of the country is allowed all that is good for the individual.

In Finland, for example, you won’t find strict schedules and you can also decide for yourself when exactly you need to cool down.

But as present as the looseness and coolness in dealing with the sauna is, as important is the praise to the host, which is still “Sauna oli hyvää!”.

Finnish sauna
A Finnish sauna

The worldwide triumph of the Finnish sauna

The Finnish sauna has long been part of the good manners of worldwide wellness oases, but the triumph of the traditional sweat room did not just begin a few years ago.

Already about 2000 years ago, the course was set for the Finnish sauna. When the Finno-Ugrians came from the northern Urals to what is now Finland, they wanted to make themselves comfortable after their long march.

Already in faraway Russia they froze so much that the campfire could not give them enough warmth.

So the Finno-Urger devoted themselves to the construction of the first sauna. It was probably a tent or hut with a fire in it. In the flames people heated stones.

Then the fire was extinguished and the hatches of the tent or hut were closed. Quickly spread a cozy warmth, in which the Finno-Urger felt comfortable.

At the same time, the heat motivated sweating, which in turn cleaned the pores. This form of body cleansing was extremely practical for the Finno-Ugric people, because at the time when they gained a foothold in Finland, one looked in vain for bath tubs and showers.

This early form of Nordic refreshment is still known today as the smoke sauna. For many enthusiasts, the smoke sauna is the unsurpassed mother of all sweat rooms.

It was only in the following centuries that the once simple sauna was refined.

Along the way, the first stove made of cast iron or stone was invented. For medieval Finland, the invention of such a furnace was a decisive step forward.

The first exports and imitations were not long in coming. Especially in Sweden and Russia, many joined the construction of the first sauna stoves. The stove was eventually supplemented with a stovepipe in Finland.

This made it possible for the first time to sauna without smoke and soot. But temperatures of 90 degrees or more were no more than wishful thinking in what was once Finland.

After the first stoves entered the Finnish saunas, the locals devoted themselves to the use of birch twigs.

The birch twigs were artfully tied and had an unmistakable aromatic smell. It was used specifically for beating on the sweaty and provided a healthy blood circulation.

The sauna becomes a Finnish cultural asset

For years, the sauna in Finland was nothing more than a part of peasant life. Despite this position, nationalism in the 19th century saved the purely peasant sauna system from the moralizing grip of the churches.

In the absence of other primitive Finnish traditions, patriots of the first hour declared the until then stone-age sweat lodge the fountain of youth of the country. The sauna quickly became for the Finns what the manly sailing trip was for the British.

Owning one’s own sauna quickly developed into a kind of patriotic status symbol for the locals. It was also at this time that the custom was established that political manhoods were sealed when visiting the sweat lodge.

One of the most famous personalities associated with sauna in Finland is Urho Kekkonen. Together with the Soviet head of state Nikita Khrushchev, he liked to negotiate in the sauna.

While the positive effects of the sauna were long considered merely myths, the health benefits of the wooden glowing hell have long since been clarified.

The positive effect of the sauna

Early on, the Finns realized that visiting the sauna had a pleasant effect on the body and mind.

But what was no more than a guess at the beginning has now been medically proven. Today, it is well known that sauna baths serve both to harden the body and to prevent colds.

At the same time, sauna is a circulatory workout, muscular relaxation and skin toning. In addition, the sauna bath boosts libido, which may well be a reason for the immense popularity of the sweat lodge.

Humidity, which is the main cause of sweating, is regulated by pouring water onto the glowing stones with a ladle.

This traditional handling has been able to preserve until today and is used in many saunas. If you visit a sauna in Finland, you don’t have to stick to a schedule.

As soon as the sauna bath becomes unpleasant for your own body, you can leave the sweat lodge without a guilty conscience.

Indispensable part of the whole ceremony is the subsequent cooling. Especially during the evening hours, this ritual is a boon for the human soul.

There is hardly anything more beautiful than jumping directly from the sauna into one of the numerous quiet lakes in the evening light. Even in winter, Finland does not do without cooling down after a sauna bath.

So it is common that for this purpose a hole is hacked into the ice or the sauna party rolls in the freshly fallen snow. If both options are too cold for you, you can also choose to cool down in the air.

However, it is important to make sure that you do not freeze. Although it is not necessary to travel to Finland to take a sauna, those who have visited a sauna in a saunamökki in the country will appreciate this option.

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Ich bin absoluter Skandinavien-Fan und reise schon seit über 12 Jahren in die schönen Länder Skandinaviens. Hier teile ich meine Erfahrungen und Tipps zu den skandinavischen Ländern und der Ostsee-Region.