Sunday Special – Finland’s Saunas


‘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.

finnish_smoke_sauna

A smoke sauna (wood-fired) – Photo via Wikimedia Commons – Taken and owned by Teemu Markkanen By Teemu Markkanen ((WT-shared) TeeMa) [CC BY-SA 1.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/1.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

highgrove_sauna

A modern (electric) sauna – Photo via Wikimedia Commons – Taken and owned by Todtanis By Todtanis (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

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SUNDAY’S SPECIAL SPOT – LAPLAND


As shout-out to my nordic roots, today’s spot is the northern region of Lapland, Finland. This my friends is where Santa Claus lives. I have said to many: “Everyone knows Santa lives in Lapland.”. It’s true!! You can meet the man in red yourself by crossing The Arctic Circle in the region’s largest city of Rovaniemi. The Santa Claus Village awaits all those who wish to visit.

There is more to see there too. A perfect place to view nature’s light show, the Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights) perform up to 200 times per year. Visit in the summer and you may never see darkness as it is a land of “midnight sun”. Walk among the reindeer at various reindeer parks and learn of their role in the lives of the locals and the indigenous Sami peoples. And of course, Lapland is a mecca for skiers and snowboarders alike.

A July midnight in Lapland

A July midnight in Lapland

Photo credit – Wikimedia Commons: Owner – Konrad Zielinski (son of user Julo)