Iron Range marks World Sauna Day ‘Sssssss’aturday

The Finnish embassy sponsors this “Traveling Sauna” as it traverses the United States in celebration of Finland’s 100th anniversary of independence.

Saturday is World Sauna Day, an international holiday to celebrate the relaxing spiritual steam bath invented in the Nordic nation of Finland.

This year, Finland also celebrates 100 years of independence from Russia and Sweden.

Both holidays find their place on Minnesota’s Mesabi Iron Range, where large concentrations of Finnish immigrants, including some of my ancestors, arrived during the economic and political tumult of those times.

In the early melting pot days of this region saunas became a common sight. Over time, other ethnic groups started to adopt the practice. Just like Cornish pasties, Italian porketta, and Slavic potica, the Finnish sauna became part of a new shared Iron Range culture.

It could be argued that the Finns introduced the concept of nudity to the state of Minnesota. And we’re all grateful for that.

On Saturday, June 3, the Finnish-American enclave of Embarrass, Minnesota celebrates sauna day with a slate of activities. One of the main draws is the Traveling Sauna, a portable sauna that the “Suomi 100” organization has been wheeling around America all year.

National Sauna Day activities in Embarrass are free and run from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday. You can find all the action at the Nelimark Homestead Museum located at Highway 21 and Salo Road in Embarrass.

The traveling sauna, nicknamed “Sisu,” will also appear in other Iron Range towns over the next couple days. Keep your eyes open and your towels handy.

I performed a comedic monologue about saunas when my Great Northern Radio Show broadcast from Aurora, Minnesota during nearby Palo’s Laskiainen Finnish sliding festival in 2016. Listen to that show here (the sauna bit is Segment #20). The Great Northern Radio Show returns with a live show June 17 at the Reif Center in Grand Rapids.


  1. Ranger47 says

    Nice article Aaron. Plus, for the first time I listened to a few of your Radio Show segments…delightful and skillfully done!

  2. Ranger47 says

    Oh…my interest was piqued due to growing up with a wood burning sauna in our basement..and having built sauna’s in all homes I’ve owned. My now adult kids aren’t too excited when I dig out the pictures of taking family sauna’s together during their formative years

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