Imagine you are sitting by a quiet lakeside at midnight and reading a book in clear daylight. Or leaving a nightclub to find the sun has risen before you even got to bed. Finland is at its magical best from June to August. Even though the towns and cities thrive, many Finns head for their lakeside summer cottages to relax. Most people head to the country especially for Midsummer’s weekend in June. It is a weekend of celebration of the amazing daylight. Around that time in northern Finland the sun does not set for several weeks.
Midsummer is one of the biggest celebrations in Finland. When staying at the country there are loads of traditions people like to do, for example bonfires, barbecues and dances. They boat and swim and practise one of their most relished traditions, sauna-bathing. It is not only sitting on the sauna bench and sweating in the heat, it is a much appreciated ritual for those wanting to get the ultimate relaxing experience. For you beginners out there, here are some guidelines you should follow.
Reserve enough time.
Take ALL your clothes off. We Finns consider nudity natural.
Start by having a shower. For reasons of hygiene, yes, but also bathing in a hot sauna is said to be better if your skin is wet.
Use a bench cover to sit on. Again there is hygiene to think about but also the benches in a sauna get very hot. Leave your newspaper, your cell phone, and your drink outside.
About the heat level, the advice is that 80°C is enough and less for beginners. Add moisture by throwing water on the stove.
Finns sometimes compete about who lasts the longest in a burning hot sauna, but you should know that is unhealthy. You should only stay as long as it is enjoyable.
Use birch twigs, if provided, to beat yourself to stimulate circulation. It is considered common courtesy to beat or scrub your sauna mate’s back too.
A sudden change from hot to cold is not recommended. Cooling off and resting are an essential part of the sauna ritual. The advantage of a waterside sauna is jumping into the cooling water straight from the heat.
Warm yourself up and have a shower before heading back to the heat.
Repeat the sauna/cooling off process as many times you like. Maybe once is enough, for Finns three times is perhaps the average.
Finish the sauna ritual by washing yourself with refreshing water. After a sauna you should not be in a hurry, even dressing can wait. Just rest, drink something refreshing and have a light snack. That is the perfect ending to an enjoyable sauna.