Christmas market or Christmas…sauna? Helsinki has both


There are more than 3 million saunas in Finland, according to the Finnish Sauna Society which was founded in the late 1930s to preserve the country’s traditional sauna culture. That’s approximately one sauna for every two people.

To Finns today, the sauna is much more than just a place to cleanse their body as it was the case in ancient times. It serves as a symbol of national culture, tradition and even folk beliefs. If you thought most Finns would skip Sauna on Christmas, you might be surprised to find out this ritual actually plays a very important role during this holiday.

On Christmas eve, many Finnish families get together and head to a sauna. The goal is to purify and relax their bodies before the arrival of the gnomes, elves, and deceased spirits who also come to bathe in the sauna after sunset. This healthy ritual is enjoyed by the Finns not only on Christmas eve itself but rather during the entire holiday season. This Finnish tradition can be enjoyed at numerous public saunas around Helsinki such as Kotiharju Sauna in the Kallio district, Löyly design sauna or the Kulttuurisauna. The Uusi Sauna in Jätkäsaari on the other hand combines a traditional sauna with a modern restaurant.

Residents of Helsinki who may not be into saunas will still have plenty of other opportunities to feel the magic of Christmas. Those looking to go shopping may head to one of the city’s numerous Christmas markets or bazaars which usually open in November. The Helsinki Christmas Market (“Tuomaan Markkinat”) will be held at Market Square from 27 November to 22 December. Around 100 artists, producers, and small businesses, as well as 11 cafes and other food outlets, will be present at Helsinki’s famous outdoor Christmas market.

Small, local producers devoted to sustainable methods will be among the vendors at the Helsinki Christmas Market this year. Visitors will have the opportunity to buy delicious seafood, jellies, mustard, and other seasonal delicacies. Organic and locally produced food will be promoted in the market’s food options this year, with a special emphasis on vegetarian and vegan options. In light of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, the market will also offer takeaway options to its guests. Organizers of the Tuomaan Markkinat also emphasize minimizing the waste and powering the stalls and carousels with energy from renewable sources.

Families with children will have the chance to enjoy the traditional carousel at the heart of the Christmas market completely free of charge. Additionally, a special mobile game has also been developed in collaboration with Helsinki City Museum for the market’s youngest visitors. They will be able to explore Helsinki’s historic center as well as the Christmas market’s enchanting traditions. People wishing to surprise their loved ones with beautiful presents will be able to find woolly socks, homemade chocolates, jewelery, natural cosmetics and much more.

Furthermore, organizers of the Helsinki Christmas Market have taken extra measures this year to ensure the safety of visitors in relation to coronavirus. The market’s layout was created with social distancing guidelines in mind, while the long working hours are said to help visitors escape peak hours.


Photo credit: Alexandr Bormotin/Unsplash