The proper way of spending a very Finnish winter holiday

A holiday dedicated solely for skiing might sound strange for someone who’s not familiar with the Nordic lifestyle. But for us Finns it is a must. For one week in February all schools and daycares close so that families get to enjoy winter sports and activities. This is also an important segment in the holiday calendar for the adults. In Finland a full-time job comes with the statutory 4 weeks of summer holiday and one week to be spent in winter. With full salary, of course. Not bad, right?

So, how is one expected to spend their free time in the heart of winter when temperatures can plummet way below -20 Celsius? The answer persists: on skiing of course – preferably in Lapland. The secret is dressing in layers. The more layers the better. Frequent hot chocolate breaks are mandatory, of course. And let’s not forget that cross-country skiing is wonderful cardio, so you’ll be sweating even when the forest around you is deep-frozen.

This leads us nicely to the national institution of bathing in sauna. (It’s hard to emphasize just how important sauna is for the Finns.) After a good, long sit in the steamy sauna there’s only one way to cool off: rolling butt-naked in the snow or – even better – ice swimming. Now, it may sound a little extreme, but it is known to have some substantial health benefits. Ice swimming boosts the immune system and improves the circulation. It is also known to reduce stress (which is a given since after a dip in the icy water you won’t be worrying about anything else but getting back into the heat of the sauna).

For those who enjoy warmer climate (Believe or not, there are a few here, too!) there’s always Spain.

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