Sauna culture in Finland

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Inscribed in 2020 (15.COM) on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity

© Annamaria Peltokangas, 2019

Sauna culture in Finland is an integral part of the lives of the majority of the Finnish population. Sauna culture, which can take place in homes or public places, involves much more than simply washing oneself. In a sauna, people cleanse their bodies and minds and embrace a sense of inner peace. Traditionally, the sauna has been considered as a sacred space – a ‘church of nature’. At the heart of the experience lies löyly, the spirit or steam released by casting water onto a stack of heated stones. Saunas come in many forms – electric, wood-heated, smoke and infra-red. Approaches vary too, with no hierarchy among them. Sauna traditions are commonly passed down in families and though universities and sauna clubs also help share knowledge. With 3.3 million saunas in a country of 5.5 million inhabitants, the element is readily accessible to all. Traditional public saunas in the cities almost disappeared after the 1950s. In recent years, new public saunas have been constructed thanks to private initiatives.

Kaupinoja sauna, Tampere, Avanto, winter, winterswimming, snow
Sauna by lake Saimaa in autumn
Join the Finns in the sauna
A drawing of two children (Reino 7 years and Hilja 4 years) called 'Enjoying the sauna at summer cottage'
A child enyoying a sauna bath with his father
A man carrying wood to his wood-heated sauna to heat it up
A man warming a smoke sauna in city Forssa
A woman enyoying the sauna experience with a whisk in Kukkaromäki
Women cooling down after a sauna bath in front of the Koitharjun Sauna in Helsinki
Three generations (a grandfather, son and the grandson) and a friend cooling down in the lake after staying in the hot smoke sauna in Kajaani