Finland has been celebrating National Sauna Day on Saturday, with fans of the bathing ritual gathering around the country to make declarations of sauna-tranquility, or “löylyrauha”.
In Asikkala, near Lahti, local activist Erkki Raunio led the ceremony in front of a group of assembled sauna enthusiasts. “The sauna is a sacred place – even though it’s black inside,” his declaration began.
The declaration goes on to set out good sauna etiquette – imploring bathers not to be too rough when beating fellow sauna-goers with birch twigs, or not to throw too much water onto the hot stones at once.
Land of 2 million saunas
Statistics Finland claim the country is home to around 2 million saunas, and many Finns have their first experience of the steam room at a very young age. The sauna in Finland is a symbol of calm, and for many harks back to a more rural existence.
“Ever since the 1200s people have held ceremonies to bring peace to their sauna and their home. There have been lots of different ceremonies, but what links them all is the idea that you have to leave your arguments and quarrels at the door,” Raunio says.
Saunas have had their own national day in Finland since the 1980s. And it’s still a key aspect of life in Finland, insists the head of the Finnish Sauna Association, Katariina Styrman:
“It’s hard to imagine life without the sauna. In the past it was a place of birth, death and everyday chores, whereas nowadays it’s a place for reflection. But it’s still a part of our everyday existence, and it’s something we should celebrate,” she says.