On December 17th 2020, Finnish sauna culture was included in the UNESCO list of intangible cultural heritage. Sauna bathing is the first tradition from Finland included in this list. The decision is a great honor for the country and its citizens, who are responsible for nurturing the sauna cultural heritage in the future. “All sauna bathers can be proud of this,” states Annika Saarikko, Minister of Science and Culture.
Finnish sauna culture is an integral part of Finns' lives for their wellbeing and daily lifestyle. There are about 3.2 million saunas in Finland and almost 90% of the Finnish population saunas at least once a week. The sauna cleanses the body and mind. Throwing water on the sauna heater to create steam is at the heart of the sauna experience. Löyly, the Finnish term for steam from the sauna heater, is the sacred spirit of the Finnish sauna, and for centuries the sauna was also considered a sacred place. Families continue to pass on the tradition to new generations, as do numerous Finnish sauna associations and communities.
“The designation of sauna culture on the UNESCO list is the result of the long-term work of sauna associations. Every sauna-going Finn can take pride in the decision made by UNESCO,” says Leena Marsio, Senior Advisor at the Heritage Agency.