About the Finnish sauna tradition

HISTORY

Sauna has been known to the Finns already before the Common Era. Therefore, the Finnish sauna is at least 2000 years old. In the Middle Ages, the sauna was common in many countries, and even today, the sauna tradition remains strong in Finland. The sauna was introduced to Finland by the Russians; also the word “sauna” is a loan from Russian.

The sauna was traditionally used for many purposes, because of its cleanliness and the easy access to hot water. Before hospitals became common, the sick were healed and the dead were washed in the sauna. Children were given birth to in the sauna, too. Actually, most Finns were born in the sauna before the year 1940.

The sauna was considered to have a special, supernatural cleansing effect, especially if visited on the evening before any festive day. In the old days, people believed that there were spirits in the sauna, especially the spirit of fire who expelled illness. The spirit of the sauna, or the sauna elf, was believed to live there, too. It was forbidden to curse in the sauna, because cursing might make the elf lose his temper. The sauna has also been an important place to relax after a day of hard work.

WOOD-HEATED SAUNA

The Finnish sauna is a room where people sit and sweat in the steam of a wood-heated stove. Additional steam is created by throwing water on the stove’s stones. Throwing water on the heated stones is a Finnish specialty, and it is unlike any other saunas used in other countries. It is the throwing of water that makes the Finnish sauna so enjoyable, relaxing and at the same time refreshing. The experience of enjoying a wood-heated sauna in a summer cottage by a lake represents the heart of the Finnish sauna tradition. The electric sauna stove is easier to use, but it does not necessarily provide the same feeling as the wood-heated sauna stove. The steam is different, the aroma is different and so is the sensation you get from the sound of crackling fire. Water is thrown on the stones today as it was hundreds of years ago, and therefore the Finnish sauna well-known for its pleasant steam.

FINNS AND SAUNA

We Finns do love our sauna: there is hardly a home in Finland without a sauna. Even the oldest blocks of flats have a common electric sauna which residents can use. Nowadays nearly all apartments and even studio flats are built with electric saunas. Many companies have a sauna compartment in their office building for entertaining their customers but also for the personnel to use. The Finns love to entertain friends at sauna parties, or “sauna evenings”. The party includes going to the sauna, relaxing, eating and drinking. Men and women usually go to the sauna separately, except for members of the same family, who normally bathe together.

RELAXATION

Relaxation with no hurry is the best aspect of the Finnish sauna tradition. After a nice relaxing sauna session, you can go for a swim or, in the winter, roll in the snow. You can also take a break, sit on the veranda and enjoy the lake view while savouring an ice-cold Finnish beer or cider. When you come from the hot sauna to the veranda, wearing only a towel, you will not feel cold for a while, even if the temperature outside is below zero.

You are welcome to experience and enjoy the traditional Finnish sauna at our guest houses.