Finnish Sauna Culture Is Now A UNESCO Cultural Heritage
The Finnish sauna tradition has been included in the UNESCO list of intangible cultural heritage. As the Finnish National Museum Authority announced yesterday, this is the first Finnish entry on the list that contains various cultural traditions of people, societies or groups.
There are around 3.2 million saunas in Finland and around 90 percent of Finns use the sauna once a week. “The sauna is an inseparable part of everyday life and celebrations, well-being and the way of life of the Finns,” said the Minister for Science and Culture, Annika Saarikko, according to a statement.
In order to be included in the register, Finland had to undertake to ensure the continuation of the original sauna tradition and to emphasize its importance for customs, well-being and democracy.
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.