Of Sauna And Its Sanctity
What is a sauna? A hot room with a pile of hot rocks in a corner. A place where one simply goes to sweat? This may be true, but if you ask a Finn, be prepared to listen for a while to their answers, as well as for some mouth-watering drinks. Saunas have in fact been a part of Finnish culture for a fair 6,000 years, and it may also be said to be almost a sacred place for Finns.
When ancient Finns chose to settle down at a location, they walked into the forest, felled trees from a small field and then built a smoke sauna. There they lived and bathed through the first winters, until they were able to construct their actual residences. Even a hundred years ago, in remote areas, mothers literally gave birth in saunas. Saunas were used to prepare food and to treat diseases. When a Finn let out their last breath, after finally clearing a smallholding and witnessing the birth of their descendants on the benches of the sauna, they themselves were washed and prepared for their final eternal journey precisely in the sauna. Through the sauna, Finns has moved from uninhabited to inhabited, from working days to holidays and from the womb to life.
A modern Finnish sauna with high-quality design products. Towel rail by Rej Design.
Nowadays, Finns are born in maternity wards, but the special significance of the sauna remains. Ask a Finn to tell you about their summer cottage and they will describe their sauna to you from almost one sentence to the next. A Finn would preferably build their sauna on the shore of a lake, surrounded by birch trees. Finns will construct a temple to harmonize with nature from wood and stone, where they can calm down, along with a porch on which they can sip a sauna beer whilst inhaling the scent of a summer evening and listening to the calls of loons out on the lakes.
Although many Finns nowadays live in cities, a small sanctuary may also be obtained there, if at all possible. Almost every new Finnish building has a sauna and if not, Finns can make space for one, even in an old unused wardrobe of a room. The walls and benches will be constructed by using only the finest, heat-treated aspen and fibre optic lighting will be arranged to remind bathers of the northern starry sky. The choice of the stove nowadays holds no less value than the process of buying a car and the right type of sauna ventilation is an issue that everyone, more or less, holds their own strong opinion about.
A traditional birch whisk.
If a Finn chooses to pamper themselves, it may be with a sauna, which nowadays is often comparable to a small spa. And why not, as décor trends have also spilled over into the forms of saunas, as well as the relevant products that fall within the space. A sauna is, at its best, a harmonious and aesthetic experience for all the senses, where a home atmosphere is continued by equipping one’s sauna with the most suitable material selections, fabrics, lighting and scents.
As so often with sacred matters, Finnish sauna sessions are accompanied by a wide range of rituals and traditions that may at first seem to be odd to outsiders. A Finn always saunas naked. This policy is very straightforward and there is no exception to the fact that within families or a group of friends, men and women bathe together in mixed saunas. The sauna culture is nurtured in Finland from when one is still a baby. Therefore, Finns are often astonished to see that bathers under 16 years old are often prohibited from entering saunas when abroad.
Rento Sauna bucket
When one enters a sauna, they discard their titles, and discussions concerning working matters are generally avoided. Bringing a telephone to a sauna is also considered an act of sacrilege. Whilst seated on the benches, loud noises are generally avoided, as are arguments and talking over someone else, so one is encouraged to listen, give time and enjoy the sauna. In a Finnish sauna, the temperature is always at least 80 degrees and water is thrown on the stones of the stove. The hot wave that hits one’s back and burns one’s ears is a Finnish pleasure. Sometimes the sense is enhanced by whipping one’s body with a birch bath broom; definitely a favourite smell to every Finn.
If a Finn invites you to a sauna, take it as an honour and have the courage to accept. It’s a guarantee that the Finns will be at their most relaxed there. Although sauna bathing is linked to previously unknown traditions, Finns will gladly guide you as a first-timer. In general, it is sufficient that one treats the sauna with a similar open respect as any other cultural holy place. If the sauna itself happens to have been designed or built by the Finn concerned, be sure to praise its appearance and comfort, and you will have made an eternal Finnish friend.
The Design From Finland brand Veto is one of the best known manufacturers of Finnish sauna stoves, whose range of products include both wooden and electric heated stoves. Veto electric heated stoves have an in-built special humidifier, which ensures that the sauna will have a sufficiently basic humidity throughout the entire duration of bathing. They heat up the sauna evenly and energy-efficiently. Both the wooden and electric heated stoves are manufactured with strong Finnish expertise from high quality materials. Their design is also timeless, which suits the sauna culture very well.