Personal saunas are huge in PA coal country. The saunas themselves aren’t huge (they’re tiny) but they are hugely popular.

Unlike the wimpy Swedish kind, made out of cedar with a bench to sit on, Pennsylvania saunas are made out of Bethlehem steel and you curl up into a ball and sit on the floor.

There are also no hot rocks to pour water on (also wimpy). Instead, there is a nice hot bed of burning coal which really heats up the steel.

New Years Day is known locally as Coal Cooking Day and everyone in the family takes a turn at roasting in their saunas for about a half hour. It’s a cleansing ritual. The sauna burns off all the bacteria, mold and moss that grew the previous year. It also takes off all body hair.

The coal fumes are thought to be good for the mind, too. People have been know to write and publish epic poems after a good cook. You can find many of them on Amazon. Just search for “Coal Tales.” While not everyone does the epic poem thing almost everyone comes up with a haiku, a good lymeric or a shanty.

If you’d like to experience a coal cook check out one of the many tours offered by the PA Visitors Bureau.

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