lauantai 27. lokakuuta 2012

Sepia Saturday 149 / Sauna

 
This week's Sepia Saturday suggests themes like: spas, water, old ladies, youg ladies, umbrellas, hats.
 I choose spa/bath/sauna.  
 

 
Finnish immigrants had their own special Steam Baths, sauna.
 
Steam Baths
Each Wednesday, Saturday and
chance Sunday at 4 PM.
 
This photo is from my great uncle Lauri's collection, taken perhaps at Naselle or Deep River, Washington,USA.
 
When Finns immigrated to North America one of the first things they did to make themselves feel more at home was to build a sauna. Normally, each house had its own sauna, but when space was in short supply in towns and urban areas, they would build a public Finnish bath.
 
For Finns, the bath were as sacred as church. As an expression of Finnish identity, the saunas provided sanctuary and restored health. Often in a log cabin each sauna had a stove in one corner made of boulders, where a wood fire burned until the rocks were intesely hot. The  bathers threw buckets of cold water on the rocks, creating clouds of hot steam. One small window provided light and ventilation.
 
On the traditional Friday and Saturday night sauna, families and neighbors came together as a group to reaffirm their common cultural identity. Once in the sauna, the new, strange, non-Finnish world was left behind. Afterwords coffee and pulla ( bun ) rounded out the ritual.
 
Some non-Finns with many Finnish neighbors were puzzled and complaned to authorities: "What is the strange nocturnal rite? " they wondered and that they thought the Finns were " worshipping pagan gods in strange log temples and  seen from time to time cavorting naked in the moonlight in what seemed to be a ritualistic dance"
 
I think the language barrier made it difficult for Finns to explain the role of the sauna, there had no words for vihta, kiuas and löyly ( vihta = birch whisk used in sauna, kiuas = bathhouse stove, löyly = steam and the associated heat in the sauna ).  The practice of entire groups bathing together regardless of age or gender, could be easily misconstrued as being immodest or immoral or worse.
 
 
Sometimes the conflict between neighbours ended to trial and court had to solve the problem for example in Minnesota 1880:  ..."and it was  proved to judge's satisfaction that the Finns were law abiding, American citizens of staid Lutherian caliber when it was explained the sauna was a place for cleaning and not for worshipping pagan gods. The judge ordered the plaintiff to pay the defendant thirty dollars for damage to his reputation plus forty dollars to have sauna moved to more isolated area. "
 
 
Our old sauna building and one snowy winter.

This sauna was built 1937 and usually we use it only during summers and Christmas time. There is a traditional wood-burning stove, no electricity only oil lamps or candles give the light. The incomparably soft heat, lush hiss of steam and relaxing crackle of a wood fueled fire... even the ritual of tending the fire gives relaxing and peaceful atmosphere.

Inside the main building we have two electricity saunas, but nowadays we use sauna quite seldom, showers are enough for us. Busy life....
 
You will find more interesting stories here 



20 kommenttia:

  1. That last photograph of your sauna is breath-taking. Thanks for sharing the history of saunas. On this cold wet day, I can think of nothing I'd rather do.

    VastaaPoista
    Vastaukset
    1. Thank you Liz!
      Cold and wet days are miserable and makes you want something warm and cosy. Without sauna perhaps a woolen blanket and a hot cup of tea would be good.

      Poista
  2. Sauna taitaa nykyäänkin olla suomalaisille ensimmäinen kaipauksen kohde ulkomailla. Se on niin meillä veressä edelleen. Pelkkä sana ja ajatus saunasta lämmittää.

    VastaaPoista
    Vastaukset
    1. Sauna on niin lämmin ja kodikas sana. Parhaista löylyistä ja tunnelmasta saamme nauttia tuossa vanhassa saunassa. Uusi sähkösauna on nopea ja kätevä, mutta ei siellä viitsi kovin kauaa lötkötellä.

      Poista
  3. I was sure that you would tell us about Finnish saunas before I opened your post. Hope the showers don't take over completely for you. It would be a shame to waste that beautiful sauna.

    VastaaPoista
    Vastaukset
    1. You guessed right :)I was also thinking to write about hats and ladies, but maybe sometimes later. When I was still at work we used to have sauna almost every day, now we both are retired and not feeling so stressed any more - we have sauna about once a week.

      Poista
  4. Simply fascinating history of such an important ritual. We're not Finnish, but my dad always loved the sauna at the YMCA. He used it much like a church, always praying his rosary there after a game of handball or tennis.

    VastaaPoista
    Vastaukset
    1. Thank you Wendy! Sauna is a good place of for tranquility and rest.

      Poista
  5. I've never had a sauna, but I'm tempted now!

    VastaaPoista
  6. That is a beautiful sauna there at the end. I hope you get to use it sometimes.

    VastaaPoista
    Vastaukset
    1. Thank you, yes it is beautiful. That sauna belongs to our summer home and we use it during summers and in Christmas time.

      Poista
  7. Very interesting post! Is the use of saunas specific to Finland? I am half Scandinavian, specifically Norwegian and Swedish. Do you know if saunas are important in those countries?

    VastaaPoista
    Vastaukset
    1. Thank you Jana! Sauna ( bastu in Swedish ) is also common in Sweden, at least in the northern parts of Sweden.
      I think the old type of sauna is not so common in Norway

      Poista
  8. I am with Bob, no way you could have avoided this subject! I was surprised to read that the sauna slowly yields to the shower. I mean it is such an integral part of life and culture in Finland. Anyway, thanks for telling us.

    VastaaPoista
  9. I've only been in a sauna once and it wasn't in Finland. It was in Tijuana, Mexico. The way you describe the sauna - the one in Tijuana seems just like the Finnish ones. Only afterwards we didn't have buns, we had street tacos!

    VastaaPoista
  10. I was ignorant of the Finnish sauna. So glad to have had this cultural and historical lesson. And the reminder of how easily we may draw the wrong conclusion about things we don't understand or have no experience with - and people "different" from ourselves.

    VastaaPoista
  11. The judge was wise to have the sauna moved to a more isolated area. I can see how it would be annoying to non-Finnish neighbors.

    VastaaPoista
  12. I would love to have a sauna. My husband is a Dane and he uses the one at work all the time. I think I would have less headaches if I had access to a sauna to clear out the sinuses. That photo of yours in the snow looks like paradise!

    VastaaPoista
  13. What a lovely finish to such an interesting story of spas. I am a fan of saunas, never really had my own, as some do, but have used them a lot!

    VastaaPoista