Group Travel Editor & Theatre Correspondent
12:00 AM 15th December 2023
Norway’s Chilled Approach To Life!
The ladies from Voss ice bathe every week throughout the winter. Photo: Åsmund Aarsand.
Floating saunas and refreshing winter bathing have become a hot trend in several places in Fjord Norway.
But did you know that the traditional Norwegian Christmas bath has a history of over 100 years?
In recent years, more and more people have become interested in ice bathing in Fjord Norway, as a refreshing physical challenge and an enjoyable and social happening.
In the small village of Voss, a group of ladies maintain this cool tradition for both social reasons and health benefits.
For the eight OAP ice swimmers it is deemed an enjoyable way to start the week!
"My body goes into a kind of resting mode in the cold water, and it becomes like a meditative experience in beautiful nature", says Marit Wæhle, one of the group's members who enjoy a weekly swim and hot sauna at Voss Hostel here
throughout the winter.
"When you come out of the water, a strong feeling of warmth comes over the body, and I almost feel a bit euphoric. Afterwards the conversation flows easily, endorphins bubble, and it is very social", says Tove Reisegg Jacobsen.
Several of the ladies say that they are not normally the type who seek cold conditions, and they tend to freeze more quickly than others. However, according to them, this is not a hindrance to either trying ice bathing or becoming a pro ice bather.
"I am actually a "freeze baby", added Marit, "and I thought winter bathing was out of the question.
"However, there is still a strong sense of accomplishment associated with this when we feel that we accomplish it, and defy the cold.
"For me, it's a joy to dive into the ice-cold water and feel that it's not dangerous or painful at all", she said.
Marit has some good tips for everyone who wants to try ice bathing:
Try it, even if you may think it´s not your thing
Don´t dip your head and hands in, and use a hat and gloves, and remember your water shoes
Don´t jump or dive in like they do on TV, especially not if you are our age
Consult your doctor if you have known health issues
Never ice bathe alone
"When you get in, you should breathe deeply four times, don´t rush, but feel the body adapt. We try to stay calm and not talk too much when we are in the water, although it´s difficult when there are so many of us who love to chat", Marit continues.
The popular winter trend has long historical and cultural roots in Fjord Norway where the Christmas bath was always a major annual event that was a rare opportunity for many to take a full-body wash.
According to social researcher Eilert Sundt, the Christmas bath has traditions dating back to the 1800s, when bathing was an essential part of the preparations for the Christmas season. Both sauna bathing and bathing in water tubs, the sea and rivers were established traditions far back in time.
Festive ice bathing in Norway!
The historical Christmas bath was often done on Christmas Eve, and it was the man who was the first to go in, followed by the wife, children and servants.
After the bath, they put on clean clothes and were ready for the grand Christmas celebration.
Along with the Christmas bath, they often had a drink, and in several places there were traditions associated with bathing, such as drinking beer and socializing while waiting their turn.
Find your place for a bath!
It is this tradition that is the background for the popular trend of saunas and ice bathing in beautiful nature in Fjord Norway today.
You can find saunas in villages and cities, both deep in the fjords and along the coast. Common to all is the experience of getting as close to nature as possible, in spectacular and beautiful surroundings.
Places to think about:
Elva Hotel; Voss Hostel; Heit Bergen Sauna Laksevåg; Sauna at Jølstraholmen; Nausta - floating sauna in Molde; Heit Sørfjorden Sauna; Luster Fjord Spa; Damp Sauna Sola; Floating Saunas at Preikestolen BaseCamp; Heit Haugesund Sauna - Viking Adventure.....and many more.
More details: www.visitvoss.no