5 tips for experiencing Christmas Sauna like Finns

The Christmas sauna provides a break from everyday work. It also cleanses the body and mind before the start of midwinter celebrations. The holiday season traditionally starts with a visit to the sauna. In the countryside, people start to heat up the sauna already early in the morning.

The Christmas sauna has always been a part of urban Christmas as well, and many public saunas open their doors early during Christmas. The Christmas sauna is definitely one of the most traditional Finnish sauna rituals. The sauna is washed properly for Christmas, and fresh bench covers, candles and lanterns are brought to the sauna to create the right atmosphere. The Christmas sauna creates a sense of intimacy and togetherness in the family, and it is an important Christmas ritual.

Photo: Harri Tarvainen
  1. Finns have a habit of going to sauna even twice on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Morning sauna is a good way to start the day and find silence and quietness for Christmas. Afternoon sauna before dinner feels cleansing and increases the appetite even more. According to the Finnish folklore, one should sauna bathe before evening and leave the sauna warm for the house elves, who then make sure to wish you a lot of luck and health.
  2. Prepare the sauna and spa area with your favorite holiday decorations. Spa area becomes cozy with (scented) candles and holiday flowers. Soft bench add comfort inside the sauna.  Remember to also prepare towels and bath robes in advance for the time after the sauna.
  3. It’s okay to go to sauna by yourself, especially during Christmas. Be true to yourself and listen to your thoughts and needs. If you feel like sharing the sauna with your dearest, sauna can bring you even closer to each other. Have a moment of silence in the sauna. Being quiet in the sauna is a nice way to give yourself, and for others, a get-away from the hectic Christmas preparations. According to the Finnish folklore, staying silent in the Christmas sauna ensures that there are no mosquitoes next summer.
  4. The Authentic Finnish Sauna Experience includes cooling off between sauna sessions. Cold showers or dips in cold pools work very well for this purpose. If you are brave enough, you can even jump in deep snow or natural waters if you have the possibility. According to the Finnish folklore, rolling in the snow in between sauna sessions cleanses one’s body and soul. But if the cold is too extreme for you, just sit down outside the sauna and enjoy cool drinks. It is suggested to have a glass of water every time you enter or get out of sauna. Other traditional holiday drinks you like to have will work fine for this as well. If you are very hungry, enjoy small Christmas snacks. Finns like cold smoked salmon, fish eggs, sour cream, onions and rye chips as a snack, especially during Christmas. Gingerbread cookies with or without blue cheese are a good option as well.
  5. When you are done, wrap yourself in a soft towel, moisturize your skin with soft lotions, put on woolen socks and warm, comfortable clothes, and go on with enjoying the Christmas holidays. Enjoy the clean and warm feeling the sauna bathing leaves behind. If you want to, you can leave straws and hay on the benches for the Christmas elves who need a place to rest after working hard during Christmas.

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