Swedish Name Days


When I came to Sweden it was the first time I had heard of Name Days. They are not celebrated in any of the other countries in which I have lived. I am a Catholic and went to a Catholic convent school for 12 years, so I am used to celebrating Saints’ Days but not ‘ordinary’ names. On the site Name Day Calendar it seems that many other European countries celebrate Name Days which I did not know. I did know they were celebrated more than birthdays in Poland because a friend told me but I did not know that they were celebrated in other countries as well. .

name day (also known as feast day) is a tradition in many countries in Europe of celebrating a day based on an individual’s given name. The custom originated with the Catholic and Orthodox calendar of saints, where believers, named after a particular saint, would celebrate that saint’s name day.  In many countries, however, there is no longer any explicit connection to Christianity.

The celebration of name days differ greatly between countries.  There are many countries that consider name days as significant as their birthdays, while there are some that still barely recognize the tradition. With those countries that still celebrate it, each year’s calendar is generally printed with the names to be celebrated.  The names differ greatly also.  Some countries have names of Saints, while others have selected specific names for each calendar day.  In some cultures, a name can appear more than once.  In this situation, the individual celebrates the name day closest to his/her birthday.

In Sweden, Name Days seem to be declining in popularity as Sweden becomes more international. I can see it in other ways as well. When I came to Sweden it was common that an engagement ring was a plain gold band for both men and women and the wedding ring was either a second matching gold band for both (worn together), or a diamond ring for the women. I have noticed that this has become less common now with more women (including all the female member of the royal family) wearing a diamond engagement ring.

Each day of the year in Sweden, with the exception of New Year’s Day, celebrates one or two names, and on your name day you celebrate. Previously with cards and small gifts but nowadays people just wish you a Happy Name Day if they remember. The name days change every 15 years, and nowadays include international names (for example Kevin and Roy on September 7th) and Swedish Names (for example Alfhild on 3rd September and Tiburtius on 14th April).On the 29th May the name day is Jeanette, which is close enough for me! As far as I know it is the Swedish Academy that decides on name days. They also decide the new words which enter the dictionary every year and the spelling and inflexion thereof.

Here is a list of Swedish Name Days and here is a list of the names celebrated in other countries

Author: Janet Carr

Fashion, beauty and animal loving language consultant from South Africa living in Stockholm, Sweden.

3 thoughts

  1. The Latvian side of my family celebrate Namesdays! 😀 It’s not celebrated as much as birthdays. We tend to send cards and write to each other, maybe a little token gift, but my immediate family will usually have a special meal to celebrate.
    I’m not so sure it is celebrated so much with the newer generations though. The Namesday traditions were brought on to me by my Grandparents, and I haven’t found many of the other English-Latvian community celebrating them at all sadly!

  2. We have name days in France too. I have always been surprised to see that others countries haven’t. I suppose l am used to celebrating people on their names day and it feels strange not doing it when l am in a different country.

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