‘What an odd post to showcase on the Sunday Special?’ you may be asking. Well it is an integral part of the Finnish culture. Also, you may be invited to experience this steamy little room on travels to Finland. Finally, I am of Finnish descent. In fact, I am a first generation Canadian as my parents were born and raised in Finland. They eventually immigrated to Northwestern Ontario where I was raised in one of the largest Finn populations outside of Finland. I grew up with a sauna (pronounced “sow-nah”) in our home and miss having the accessibility to one here Vancouver.
The use of this type of bath in Finland goes back for centuries. Historically it was not only a place to bathe but also to prepare foods, childbearing and to treat illnesses. These days a sauna’s purpose is aligned more with relaxation and cleansing oneself yet still a deeply ingrained part of the culture, history and mindset of the Finns. It was and still is a place that makes a home and is to be treated with respect. Using a sauna is not an occasional occurrence. It is something that is used several times a week. When I visit my parents it the first thing I do! Sitting in a hot room pouring water onto heated rocks is only part of the sauna ritual. Birch branches gently slapped on one’s skin is an invigorating treat. Once the heat gets a bit to much it is time to cool down by jumping into a nearby lake, rolling in some snow, or plunging oneself in a hole cut into a frozen lake. The contrast is surprisingly refreshing. In modern times and urban areas taking a cool shower is a reasonable substitute. In fact, I myself have never jumped into a snowbank or dunked myself into a hole in a frozen lake after a sauna. But I would should the opportunity present itself. After this startling contrast you head back in for some more heat and repeat the whole process. Should you find yourself in Finland make certain you take part in this very important part of Finn culture.