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Finland is a Sauna Superpower And Now it Wants the Tradition on the UNESCO Cultural Heritage List

Finland is a Sauna Superpower And Now it Wants the Tradition on the UNESCO Cultural Heritage List
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Finland is the promised land of the sauna. Picture: Tony Öhberg for Finland Today


Not too long ago, Finland Today wrote this:

“There are steam saunas, smoke saunas, electric stove saunas, wood stove saunas, collective saunas and portable saunas—these terms, and what they entail in practice, are all too familiar when you have lived in Finland long enough.”

Indeed, saunas are as much part of the Finnish lifestyle as wife carrying. Ok. Saunas are much more Finnish. And much more common than the weird competition taking place in the north. Saunas are ingrained in the culture; in our blood; instilled in the veins.

According to the estimates, there are over three million saunas in Finland that has a population of about 5.5 million people.

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Now, the Finnish Heritage Agency together with sauna associations are proposing the Finnish Sauna Culture to be nominated on UNESCO’s (United Nations specialized agency) list of Intangible Cultural Heritage.

It would be the first Finnish element to be featured on the list.

“One good example of our intangible cultural heritage is sauna bathing which is a significant element of the Finnish way of life. This multifaceted tradition has long roots and is cherished by the whole nation,” said Sampo Terho, minister for European Affairs, Culture and Sport in a statement.

The decision on whether the nomination is accepted will be received in December 2020.

Then it’s time to submit another nomination. (There can be only one nomination on the list yearly.)

The next element to be nominated is the Kaustinen folk fiddling tradition.

Here’s an example:

More about the list

Under the Convention, intangible cultural heritage shall be inventoried both at national and international level. UNESCO maintains two Lists of Intangible Cultural Heritage and a Register of Good Safeguarding Practices. The purpose of the lists is to bring visibility to the living heritage and to share good practices among countries.

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In Finland, elements of intangible cultural heritage are inventoried in the Wiki-Inventory for Living Heritage. Last spring, there was an opportunity for communities to propose their elements listed in the Wiki-Inventory to be included in the National Inventory of Living Heritage. In November, the Ministry of Education and Culture selected the first 52 elements to be included in the National Inventory of Living Heritage. Finland has the possibility to nominate one of these elements per year for inscription on UNESCO’s Lists of Intangible Cultural Heritage.

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About The Author

Tony Öhberg

The founder. Reporter and photojournalist. Salesman. Fluent in three languages. Pushing a career in journalism spanning two decades. Always looking for opportunities to tell another story.

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