Wednesday 10/20/21
FINNISH CULTURE

Finland’s sauna culture inscribed on UNESCO Cultural Heritage List

There are approximately 3.2 million saunas in Finland, a country of 5.5 million inhabitants.

Sauna-Tullin-Tampere-by-Laura-Vanzo
A Finnish sauna in the city of Tampere. Photo: Laura Vanzo.

Finland’s sauna culture was inscribed on UNESCO’s Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity on 17 December 2020.

The decision was made by an intergovernmental committee consisting of representatives of 24 State Parties. This is Finland's first inscription on the UNESCO Lists of Intangible Cultural Heritage.

According to the Ministry of Education and Culture, the sauna culture in Finland is "strong and lively."

"The inscription to UNESCO’s list means that we are committed to fostering the living Finnish sauna tradition in many ways. In addition to vitality, the continuity of the sauna tradition is safeguarded and the importance of Finnish sauna culture is highlighted as a feature of Finnish customs and traditions as well as wellbeing and democracy. Numerous Finnish sauna societies and other communities  that promote the Finnish sauna culture operate in the background," the Ministry said in a press release.

"Sauna bathing is an integral part of both everyday life and festivities as well as wellbeing and lifestyle for Finnish people. Sauna bathing underscores equality and mutual respect between people. The sauna tradition is Finland's first element in the UNESCO Lists of Intangible Cultural Heritage. This will make our sauna culture even better known throughout the world. All sauna bathers can be proud of this," said Annika Saarikko, Minister of Science and Culture.

3.2 million saunas

Heating up the sauna, the customs and traditions associated with sauna bathing, and songs, beliefs and storytelling traditions about saunas are all part of this living heritage. With almost 90% of the Finnish population sauna bathing once a week, this tradition is flourishing.

There are approximately 3.2 million saunas in Finland, so the figures speak for themselves.  Families pass on the tradition to new generations, as do the numerous Finnish sauna societies and associations.

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