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Sauna Day celebrates favourite Finnish pastime

Over 1,000 public and private saunas throughout Finland open their doors on 27 July to exalt an age-old tradition.

Tamminiemen saunan avoin ovi.
Former Finnish President Urho Kekkonen's sauna at Tamminiemi. Image: Linda Wendelius / Yle
Yle News

Finland's public broadcaster Yle wraps up its sauna-themed summer content with extensive coverage of Sauna Day, a day devoted entirely to Finland's venerable steam bath tradition.

Over 1,000 participating public and private saunas have added their names to a map on the event's website, while a "löylymittari" (steam meter) allows people enjoying sauna on 27 July to sign in. As of noon, the tally was already past 7,000.

One example of the saunas open to the public on Saturday is the Tamminiemi museum sauna in Helsinki. Legend has it that the benches of this famous sauna at the residence of former president Urho Kekkonen were the site of important foreign policy negotiations with world leaders during Kekkonen's 25 years in office. The sauna will not be heated, but visitors are welcome to come and take a peak.

The Finnish Border Guard is also opening up six of its normally personnel-only saunas on the eastern border for the day, including those near the cities of Kuhmo, Kuusamo and Suomusalmi.

An intangible cultural heritage

In March Finland's Ministry of Education and Culture nominated Finnish sauna bathing for inscription on UNESCO's List of Intangible Cultural Heritage. A decision is expected in December 2020.

"We want to call Finns' attention to just how special our sauna culture is! Now is the time to celebrate sauna, as the popularity of public saunas and enjoying sauna together is rising quickly. In addition, the Finnish sauna tradition was the first thing that Finland applied to have included on the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage List," said Yle's Sauna Day producer Tiina Klemettilä in May.

Yle coverage of Sauna Day extends to radio, television and its streaming service Areena. A two-hour TV1 live broadcast from Tampere starting at 7:30pm will feature saunas and festivities from around the country.

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