Using a sauna often leads to the question, "Who invented the sauna?" But because they have been around for centuries, there is no easy answer to this question.
Most historians and sauna enthusiasts agree that the Finnish people have been using saunas since before Christ, but there aren't any written records that talk about them. This isn't unusual, because saunas are such a natural part of their everyday lives.
The Chinese also used saunas a long time ago, but they probably picked up the habit from the nomadic ancestors of the Finnish, who wandered and traded before settling down in Finland.
By the middle ages, in-ground saunas were more common in Finland than the portable kinds. Over the years, the invigorating effects of using a sauna were noted, including improved blood circulation, improved skin tone, and an ability to ward off infection more easily.
All of these contributed to the popularity of saunas. In fact, for centuries most Finnish women gave birth in saunas because it was the most sterile environment available thanks to the tannins in the wood smoke and steam.
In the New World, Native Americans were using their version of a sauna, the sweat lodge. Native Americans also recognized the many health benefits of sweating, but they also tied spiritual beliefs and practices to the use of saunas, elevating their use to the level of spiritual practice.
There is still some debate about who invented the sauna, with some Native Americans claiming they used the sweat lodges long before the Finnish people used their saunas regularly, but the debate will no doubt continue, since there is no definitive proof either way.
The important thing to keep in mind is that there are a variety of cultures around the world that now take advantage of saunas for relaxation and improved health.
The next time someone asks you who invented the sauna, you can explain that saunas are so steeped in history and have been used for so long that the identity of the actual inventor is lost in the mists of time.
If they insist on wanting to know, you can explain to them that there's no doubt that Finland is the country most likely to have invented the sauna, but Native Americans and some other ethnic groups were using similar types of super heated, steamy rooms for generations as well.
Or simply ask your friends to step into your own sauna; they'll quickly forget about their worries and begin to relax. Soon, they'll realize they really don't care who invented the sauna - they're just glad someone did!