Christmas Sauna in Finland
Dec 14, 2021
Sauna is an important part of Christmas in Finland. Approximately 80 percent of Finns go to the sauna on Christmas Eve. It is one of the oldest Holiday traditions and many consider it a favourite amongst other activities on the 24th of December.
Most commonly, the sauna is heated up before dinner on Christmas Eve. However, some prefer a morning bathing session with a cold plunge to begin the day.
Old sauna traditions remain at the heart of the preparation and bathing routine in many Finnish homes during Christmas.
Preparing for the Christmas Sauna
It is important to clean the sauna and shower area before Christmas. Lanterns and candles are placed outside to lighten the space around the sauna. Daylight hours are short in Finland during December, with the Northern areas only having 3-4 hours of sun light. The sauna is decorated with birch branches and seasonal sauna textiles. Sauna scents can also be added to create a seasonal atmosphere.
Christmas sauna is a way to relax and clean up before the evening’s festivities. You should never be too loud in the Christmas sauna, or rush the bathing. Rolling in the snow in between the steams, or löylys, is believed to be good for the soul. If snow isn’t an option, a cold shower or sitting outside can also work as a way to cool off.
The “Saunatonttu”- Sauna Elf
The beloved Sauna Elf- “Saunatonttu” is one of the oldest Finnish sauna traditions and is especially important for younger sauna bathers during Christmas time. The Saunatonttu looks over the sauna and its visitors.
A household’s Saunatonttu should be respected and cared for. They maintain order and ensure good behaviour in the Christmas sauna. As a token of appreciation, it is traditional to leave gingerbread men, bread or beer outside the sauna for the elf.
Heating up the sauna shouldn’t be left too late in the evening, as the Saunatonttu also likes to enjoy the sauna at Christmas. Lastly, it is polite to leave some water in the bucket for the Saunatonttu, once everyone has had a chance to relax in the löylys before Christmas dinner.
Statistics Finland (2019). Joulu tilastojen valossa. Available at: http://www.stat.fi/tup/tilastokirjasto/joulu-tilastojen-valossa-2019.