Finnish Culture Finnish History


Left to the Mussulman, this culture would go the way of the Dodo bird. KGS

YLE: Finland has had saunas long before the arrival of Christianity. Finnish sauna also carries with it many Christmas traditions.

Though no one knows exactly when the first saunas in Finland were made, the earliest saunas were probably simple holes in the ground, as can be guessed from the etymology of “sauna”. The word means a hole or a foxhole, which is heated up.

According to researcher Juha Nirkko from the Finnish Literature Society, sauna has been a church, a pharmacy, a bathing place and social room, among other things, for Finns. Its popularity is of course also related to the cold climate of Finland, where such a method for warming up comes in handy.

Sauna also forms an integral part of Finnish Christmas celebrations. Traditionally this was a time to rest, eat well and purify oneself. In Finland sauna has been the method of choice for such cleansing, which was especially important on Christmas Eve.

According to Nirkko, it is preferable to have sauna in the afternoon of the Eve, as household members should bathe before the spirits. Observing such an order is important not to incur the wrath of the dead. Indeed, in Finnish tradition elves, gnomes and dead family members have all been given their own turn for taking Sauna.

Other old traditions include throwing beer on the sauna stove in order to help bring about a good harvest in the following year. Spells and prayers were also said in sauna to achieve spiritual purification along with physical cleanliness.

Nirkko published a book on sauna and its traditions earlier this year.

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