Smoke sauna tradition in Võromaa
Inscribed in 2014 (9.COM) on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity
The smoke sauna tradition is an important part of everyday life in the Võro community of Estonia. It comprises a rich set of traditions including the actual bathing customs, the skills of making bath whisks, building and repairing saunas, and smoking meat in the sauna. The sauna is a building or room heated by a stove covered with stones and with an elevated platform for sitting or lying. It has no chimney, and the smoke from burning wood circulates in the room. People usually visit the sauna together and remain until the body sweats. Water is thrown on the heated stones to produce hot steam-laden air and bathers beat their bodies with whisks to scrub off dead skin and stimulate blood circulation. After sweating, whisking, relaxing and possible healing procedures, people cool themselves outside and rinse their bodies with water. The procedure is repeated. The smoke sauna tradition is primarily a family custom, practised usually on Saturdays but also before major festivals or family events, whose main function is to relax the body and mind. Families take turns hosting each other. Usually an older family member is responsible for preparing the sauna, accompanied by children who gradually acquire the necessary skills.