• Йоана Христова

Rediscover Scandinavia: traditions to learn from (part 2)

Are you ready to continue our journey in those far northern lands? The Danish sense of coziness and the Swedish moderation are only the beginning.

We are about to see a few more wondrous Scandinavian traditions. We begin with the Norwegian desire of living outdoors, (friluftsliv) then go through the Finnish love of sauna, to finally reach the Icelandic belief in fairytale creatures.

The Norwegian way of living outdoors (friluftsliv)

We would need to blow out the candles and leave the warm seat in front of the fireplace. The Norwegian concept of living outdoors (this idea has not only Norwegian but also Swedish roots) does not include a sweet time off and the comforts of home.

It is the exact opposite – the idea is to be out in the nature, to be active and doing things you have never done before. Activities such as skiing, mountaineering, canoeing, and camping outdoors can all be identified as part of the Norwegian friluftsliv. But that’s not all. Friluftsliv is a philosophical concept which stands for the unification of man and nature – a return to our original home. In this case the term ‘’home’’ does not mean the four walls of our apartment, nor the comfy seat in the living room sofa. According to Norwegians, our true home lies in the endless fields, green forests, and majestic mountains. When was the last time you picked the backpack and headed home?

Finnish sauna

‘’In sauna one needs to behave as if in church’’ says a famous Finnish proverb.

Sauna truly has an almost sacred status in Finland. In the past women gave birth there since it was the cleanest room in the house. The wooden walls of saunas also bore witness to purifying rituals before marriage, as well as such preparing the deceased for burial.

Finnish people continue to worship the purifying strength of sauna even today. Most of them spend hours in there every day. And as another Finnish saying goes: “A home without a sauna is no home at all.” If you wish to immerse yourself in Finnish culture, you should definitely try the sauna.

The Icelanders belief in elves

Research done by the Icelandic university reveals that only 13% of people questioned do not believe in the existence of elves. 37% say that they probably do exist, and 8% have no doubt in the matter.

Iceland is a land of water, fire, and ice. Maybe the surreal landscape is responsible for its inhabitants’ belief in fairytale creatures.

“It is impossible to live in such a landscape and not believe in the existence of a greater power than you” says professor in Medieval Icelandic Literature - Adalheidur Gudmundsdottir in an interview for BBC.

Crazy or not, the Icelandic belief in fantastical creatures reminds us to look beyond what we see. Everyday life is full of wonders as long as we choose to see them.

And do you believe in elves? Do you ski like the Norwegians or do you prefer to enjoy the comforts of home like the Danes? Share your favorite Scandinavian tradition in the comments below. :)