On Thursday, the smoke sauna tradition in Võrumaa, southern Estonia, was added to the UNESCO Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity by the organization. As Thursday is also the traditional sauna day in the Estonian countryside, people in Võru country heated up their saunas to celebrate.
ETV's culture news examined the preparations to learn more about the character of the traditional smoke sauna, as well as of the wider implications that the inclusion of the tradition in the UNESCO list.
"Being added to the UNESCO list and getting noticed makes the local people think more about their culture heritage," said Külli Eichenbaum of the Võromaa Smoke Sauna Cooperation Council.
The traditional Estonian greeting upon entering the sauna is "Hüva leili!" - Have a good steam!
The Võro people, on the other hand, say "Jummal sekkä!" - God be with you! Or God be amongst you! - and reply "Jummal hää miis" - God is a good man. The reason behind such a saying lay in the belief that the sauna was the place of preference of ghosts and bogies, and god's presence would offer protection against such evil or unwanted spirits.