Once used by farmers to mark the passing of days instead of the numerical calendar, “namedays” are still a big deal in Sweden, with many Swedes continuing to treat their namedays as a kind of second birthday.
If you look at someone’s diary in Sweden (and occasionally in Norway, Denmark, Finland and some non-Nordic countries too) you will likely find a few names next to the date (Monday 15th January for example has a “Laura” and “Lorentz” written next to it).
This is a “namnsdag” or “nameday”, and whoever’s name appears under the date that day is permitted to indulge in a kind of second birthday, complete with cake, cards, and even presents (though usually smaller ones than on your actual birthday; some flowers or a box of chocolates perhaps).
Traditionally, namedays were a way for farmers to keep track of the days 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 Svenska Academien. The old list of names was updated by a committee of Svenska Academien members first in 1972, then again in 1988, 1993 and 2001, with the addition of these new names meaning that there are now around 615 names in the calendar. But with over 150,000 registered first names in Sweden, there will always be some people left out.
Perhaps you might be celebrating your nameday sometime soon? Find out by clicking the link below: