Sauna History + Culture

Saunas are an integral part of Finnish culture. For most of the world, saunas are a luxury but for Finns, it's a way of life. There are over 3 million saunas in Finland for just over 5 million people. The majority of Finns use the sauna at least once a week!

For Finns, a sauna is a place of health, cleanliness & pureness--They say you should behave in a sauna the way you would in church. That being said, private saunas are considered a social place to spend quality time with friends & family. Saunas are so important to the Finns that they used to build the sauna before the house and live in it while the home was constructed! Life use to begin and end in the sauna, literally. Before hospitals, women would give birth in the family sauna. It is also where bodies would be prepped for burial. Additionally, saunas were used to prepare brides for marriage and had practical uses, like curing meat!

Although saunas have changed since ancient times, archeological evidence suggests that saunas have been used for thousands of years by indigenous peoples all over the subarctic regions! There are numerous bathing cultures around the world but the Finnish tradition of pouring water over hot stones (Saunakivet) to create steam (loyly) is the most well known. It also involves multiple rounds of heating and cooling and beating oneself with a bundle of birch branches (vihta, vasta). Along with the many other health benefits of saunas, this is believed to increase blood flow to the area!

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