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Finn News: Saunas an integral part of life for Finns

I love fall with its beautiful, brightly-colored leaves. I also love the excitement of getting the yard and garden ready for winter. After busy days of working outside, the crisp cool evenings are perfect for "relax in the sauna" time!

The Finn part of me loves a good hot and steamy sauna on cold days. My non-Finn half sees no sense in going into a hot, steamy sauna on hot, steamy summer days. That half also says, "No way!" to the suggestion of jumping from the sauna into freezing cold water or snow! That's why, to me, fall is perfect for sauna time! Not too hot and not too cold!

In case you didn't know, saunas have been around practically since the beginning of time. Through thousands of years, the "sauna" has evolved from the ancient smoke lodges of the early natives to the early Finnish family's savusauna (smoke sauna), from the public bathhouses/saunas to the family sauna, and from wood-fired sauna stoves to electric saunas. These days, there are even traveling saunas built into cars, buses, car trailers, tractor trailers, boats, and even bicycles!

In Finland, the sauna is a very important, almost revered or holy part of life. There are over three million saunas in Finland for the population of over five million people. You can find a sauna at just about every home and cabin and individual apartment. Many businesses, corporations, organizations, churches, government offices, sports facilities, etc., have a sauna on their premises. Visiting with friends brings an invitation to sauna. Conducting successful business leads to sauna time. Even watching a live (not televised) hockey game can be done from a sauna! And while Finns will understand if you don't accept a sauna invite, you certainly won't impress them!

When Finns emigrated to the United States, the importance and customs of the sauna came with. Their saunas were usually built before their houses. To American Finns, the sauna was important not only for bathing and hygiene, but also for physical health and for social time with family and friends. However, to some American Finns, the use and customs of the sauna are not as common as they once were. Maybe we American Finns need to build more saunas and encourage more sauna gatherings! If you are blessed with a sauna, I hope you can start or invigorate the sauna tradition by inviting friends and family to attend one of these upcoming exciting events followed by a perfect time of sharing sauna and coffee!

The Oct. 4 monthly meeting of the Finnish Americans and Friends (FAF) will feature Rodney Ikola, a noted geophysicist and history buff, who will present a PowerPoint presentation on the varied but stunning architecture of churches in Finland. Ikola will speak about early church building by master carpenters, gothic cathedrals built during Catholic times, Russian Orthodox churches and tsouna's constructed in Eastern Finland and Kareilia, churches designed by internationally-acclaimed architects Aalto and Saarinen, and the influence of modern design found across Finland including the "Rock Church" in Helsinki. The meeting will be held at the Hibbing Tourist and Senior Center, 1202 E. Howard St., starting at 2 p.m. The public is invited and coffee and refreshments will be served.  

The Hibbing FAF will also sponsor a conversational Finnish Language class for all levels of ability on Sunday, Oct. 9. Coffee and refreshments will be available. For more information, contact Ken at 218-744-5761.

A delicious pannukakku breakfast will be sponsored by the Ladies of Kaleva Väinöttären Tupa, Cloquet, from 8 a.m. to noon Monday, Oct. 10, at Bethesda Lutheran Church in Carlton. This fundraiser will provide money for local scholarships. The ladies invite you to come and have a great meal, enjoy conversation with Finns and friends, and support a great cause!

The Northern Lakes Arts Association (NLAA) of Ely will present a staged reading of “The Rock Farm,” a new play written by Donna Salli (a U.P. Michigan Finn) and directed by Sally Bronski Childs. Performances will be at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, Oct. 14 and 15, and at 2 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 16, at the Vermilion Community College Theater in Ely. Admission is $10 ($8 for NLAA members) and tickets will available at the door. After the performances, the playwright, director and actors will be available for discussion.  

The Rock Farm is about five members of a Finnish-American family waiting for late arrivals for Thanksgiving at the family homestead in the backwoods of Michigan's Upper Peninsula. A freakish snowstorm, with thunder and lightning and wind that rips along the eaves, reminds the women (two 70-something sisters, Raija and Helmi, and their daughters, Ann, Sarah and Carolyn) of the way nature in Finnish folklore comes to life. To distract themselves, the women tell stories of familial and cultural mythology.  

For more information, go to the Northern Lakes Arts Association website ( or email them at (If you are interested in performing, auditions will be held from 6:30-8 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 9, at the VCC theater. Actors can read the play online at the NLAA website.)

“Remember When,” a special "fun"-raising benefit, will be presented Saturday, Oct. 15, at Kaleva Hall, 125 Third St. N., Virginia. Starting at 7 p.m., this a delightful and "groovy" musical show for all ages will feature Pat and Donna Surface and the Boundary Waters Boys bringing humor, reflections and music of the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s. “Nostalgic” refreshments will be offered at the intermission. Tickets are $15 and are available at Irma's Finland House, Natural Harvest Coop and Schmitt Music (in Virginia) or by calling Judy at 218-741-0041. The proceeds will go for the continued preservation and renovation of the historic Kaleva Hall.

“The Kalevala” is coming to the nimbus, Northeast Minneapolis's Home for Independent Theater. From Oct/ 6-30, the production, based on the ancient epic of the same name, will "transport audiences to a fantastic world of magic and legend … where stories are born in the bellies of giants … where maidens get turned into fish and hags into eagles … where men and gods walk side by side in the fierce lands of the north." The Kalevala will be nimbus' inaugural production in their new performance space at 2303 Kennedy St. N.E. in Northeast Minneapolis. For upcoming information of dates, times, costs, etc., visit their website ( or contact them by phone (612-548-1379) or email (

And coming soon … put this "save the date" on your calendars: The annual Duluth area Pikkujoulu, sponsored by the Minnesota Finnish American Historical Society (MFAHS), will be held Sunday, Dec. 4, at the Holiday Inn in downtown Duluth. Tickets will be available soon for this great event celebrating Finnish Independence and Christmas. Watch for upcoming information on this event and how to purchase tickets!