Sauna in Finland Today
It is estimated that there are at least 1.6 million saunas in Finland today. Compared to the population of 5 million it certainly is a world record, but it only reflects the essential role of the sauna in the Finnish way of life. Practically every Finn goes to the sauna about once a week, and while on vacation on the summer cottage many heat the sauna every day.
Saunas are found everywhere: People living in the country or individual houses in towns have their own saunas, and nowadays many apartments and condominiums are equipped with a small sauna, too. Nearly all apartment houses have a ”house sauna”, which all families can use in turn. Then there are hundreds of thousands of summer cottages, mostly on a lake or river or the sea, and nearly each one of them has a sauna. Hotels, gyms, swimming pools and the like all have saunas and many companies have built them for their employees and guests. Finnish passenger and cargo ships have saunas, and there is a sauna even in the Parliament building in Helsinki.
Whereas still in the beginning of the 1900´s almost all saunas were traditional smoke saunas, today they are considered nearly relics. The electric and chimney equipped stove have almost completely taken over. Smoke saunas today are owned and used by ”sauna connoisseurs” who consider them superior in enjoyment and aroma to the newer type saunas and well worth the extra time and trouble it takes to heat them.
Another form of sauna which has nearly disappeared is the public sauna in the city. There is little need for the public saunas anymore since nearly everybody has access to either a private or a ”house” sauna.
The sauna has also lost a lot of its ”sanctity”. For many Finns today the sauna is merely a place to sweat, relax and get washed and people have forgotten the tradition of sauna spirits. On the other hand this is easy to understand thinking how little the modern light wood paneled, electrically heated saunas resemble the original black smoke sauna.