The sauna culture is the first Finnish element on UNESCO’s Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity
Finland ratified the UNESCO Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage in 2013. In Finland, the Finnish Heritage Agency is responsible for the implementation of the Convention.
The sauna culture from Finland was inscribed on the UNESCO list at the December 17, 2020 meeting of the Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage. As authorized by the state, the Finnish Heritage Agency commits, together with Finnish sauna communities and promoters of the sauna culture, to safeguard the vitality of the sauna tradition and to highlight its importance as part of customs and wellbeing.
Heating a sauna, the customs and traditions related to sauna bathing, as well as sauna in songs, beliefs, and folklore for example are part of this living intangible cultural heritage. The vitality of the sauna now hits an all-time peak: almost 90 percent of all Finns go to a sauna once a week. This popularity is also reflected in the number of saunas: there are 3.2 million of them in Finland. The tradition is passed on in families and in numerous active sauna societies.
As part of the submission made to the UNESCO, the sauna community has defined a number of safeguarding measures intended to support the vitality of the sauna tradition. Additionally, the Finnish Heritage Agency is currently preparing protection for three public saunas by special legislation. These saunas are the Kotiharju and Arla in Helsinki and the Rajaportti sauna in Tampere.