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A good steam helps sauna-mad Finns cope with life

Mon Aug 18, 2008 4:15pm EDT

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var RTR_ArticleBlurb = “By Agnieszka Flak HELSINKI (Reuters Life!) – Forget horoscopes and fortune-tellers — steam is the hot way to ensure marital bliss for a bride-to-be in sauna-loving Finland. A few days before Anna Solovjew’s big day, friends invited her to a bridal…”;


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By Agnieszka Flak
HELSINKI (Reuters Life!) – Forget horoscopes and fortune-tellers — steam is the hot way to ensure marital bliss for a bride-to-be in sauna-loving Finland.
A few days before Anna Solovjew’s big day, friends invited her to a bridal initiation in a steam room to ensure good fortune in her married life.
“It was the first time I profoundly thought over what getting married and married life really means,” Solovjew said.
One of her fellow bathers rubbed salt into her back and whipped her with a whisk to chase away all her old loves.
All those present poured milk on the bride’s body symbolically to impart gentleness to her married life and honey to ensure the union would soon produce children.
“After that, I was more ready to tie the knot and was totally sure I wanted to do it,” she said.
The ritual stems from the centuries-old tradition of using a sauna to cleanse the body and the soul.
Finns say the darkness of the room and the scalding hot steam are an escape from everyday troubles and provide an opportunity to indulge in positive thoughts.
The sauna is embedded in Finns’ lifestyle, with one sauna for every three people.
Saunas are found in other parts of the world but the Finns have made it an intrinsic part of their life.
With winter temperatures falling to minus 40 degrees Celsius (minus 40 Fahrenheit) in some parts of the country, in the past the sauna was the room Finns constructed first when building their homes.
“That’s how we survived, because we needed it for the warmth, to wash ourselves and to dry meat,” said Merja Hedman, the head of the 3,800-member Finnish Sauna Society in Helsinki.
OPTIONAL EXTRAS
Routines vary, but the basic idea is the same: basking in temperatures of between 70 to 140 degrees Celsius (160 and 280 Fahrenheit) followed by a quick cool-off.
Having a washing attendant, flaying oneself with birch twigs, plunging into a hole cut into the ice of a frozen lake or rolling in the snow are optional extras.  Continued…


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