Finland won its independence from Russia on December 9, 1917, but the Red River Finns, Nordic Culture Clubs, and Folkways are celebrating early, in the most Finnish possible way, by hosting a sauna in the Viking Ship Park in Moorhead, near the Hjemkomst Center.
“We are not Swedes, we do not want to become Russians, let us therefore be Finns,” said Adolf Ivar Arwidsson (1791-1858), and we agree entirely, even if it’s only for two days -- and being Finnish means lengthy and repeated saunas.
They are picky about pronunciation. Say “SOW-na,” like a female pig.
And there are two saunas, and they have names, Sisu and Log. Sisu is the Finnish national mascot in the 100-year independence celebration, going from city to city across the U.S.
Log is the Folkways organization’s mobile sauna. We haven’t been able to find a mention of Log in Folkways’ website. It does have a logo, a picture of a log, and Log and Sisu have apparently merged management of the two saunas.
Wow, there are maybe two million saunas in Finland, and only five million Finns.
It’s normal to have a sauna in your home. Saunas are everywhere -- in corporate headquarters, government offices, universities, apartments. They are used for recreation, relaxation, socializing, physiological and psychological cleansing, and detoxification.
Long ago, they were used for birthing babies, because they were relatively sterile and had hot water available. “The Finnish sauna was also used for a purification ritual women went through before marriage, and a place old people might go to die.”
Sisu and Log have a lot of good advice for those like us, who are unaccustomed to sauna-ing on the banks of the Red River.
We don’t know how far apart the two saunas will be or what the logistics of transitioning between the two are, if it’s a chilly day. The Festivaali website says only “...Log the Mobile Sauna will also be on hand so community members and visitors alike will have twice the opportunity to sauna on the banks of the Red River of the North.”
And why will the saunas be located on the banks of the river in the first place? For a bracing dip in the cold cold river before going back into the sauna, as in Finland?
Probably not. They are there because it’s close to the Hjemkomst Center, where sauna-ers will receive $5-off discounts from the Historical and Culture Society of Clay County.
More advice. You can reserve Sisu or Log in advance, but you don’t have to. You can just go and see if there are openings. You can bring five friends and reserve an entire sauna for half an hour, or you can go alone and make some friends. They don’t say anything about it, but if you go alone, arrangements will probably be mixed, all sexes, orientations and gender identities.
Who can sauna? “Anyone can sauna.” But if you’re coming down with a cold, they don’t recommend it. How do you behave in a Finnish sauna? We don’t know, but there is a Finnish saying, “One must behave in a sauna as one would behave in church.”
How about changing clothes? Do you have to do it out in the woods? No. A private changing space will be provided, as will a traditional full-size sauna towel. You can adopt the bodily exposure you’re comfortable with. Wear a swimsuit or just the big towel.
What to bring? A water bottle and a pair of flip-flops. Don’t bring metal jewelry. It will heat up and might burn you.
The Festivaali is open to the public and free of charge, featuring Finnish food and refreshments, Finnish lawn games, and live music from Suomi Rosvot (The Finnish Bandits). It looks like Suomi Rosvot’s hour-long set will start around noon on Saturday, after the 11am welcome and mayoral proclamation.
To reserve time in one or both of the saunas, go to https://www.eventbrite.com/e/sauna-festivaali-tickets-33710674535 and click on “Register.” Just in case we didn’t mention it, the saunas are also free of charge.
IF YOU GO
Friday, Saturday April 28 and Sunday April 29 4pm-
Viking Ship Park, near the Hjemkomst Center
202 First Ave N, Moorhead
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