Once used by farmers to mark the passing of days, ‘namedays’ are still a big deal in Sweden, with many Swedes continuing to treat their namedays as a kind of second birthday…
Look at a Swedish diary and you’ll find a collection of Christian names under the date (Monday 15th January for example has a ‘Laura’ and ‘Lorentz’). These are namnsdags or namedays, and people of that name are permitted on that day to indulge in a kind of second birthday, complete with cake, cards, and even presents (though usually smaller than those of your actual birthday).
The allocation of namedays are controlled by the Svenska Akademien (Swedish Academy) in Stockholm
Namedays were once a way for farmers to keep track of time without using the numerical Gregorian calendar. Traditionally in par with saint days, nowadays, after waves of immigration brought in new names, the list needs constant updating, a task overseen by the Swedish Academy. The old list of names was updated by a committee first in 1972, then again in 1988, 1993 and 2001, meaning there are now 615 names in the calendar. With over 150,000 registered names in Sweden this year, though, and that number only increasing, it’s a never-ending task, and there will always be people left out.