Nordic Names Blog - The History of Nordic Name Days

From Nordic Names - www.nordicnames.de - All rights reserved.

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30 May 2020

Origin

Name days in the Nordic countries have their origin in the Christian veneration of saints. The names of the saints were linked to the date on which the saint died. Dedicating each day of the year to a saint (with exceptions like Christmas Day and a few others that were considered too holy) has its roots in the early Catholic Church. The first Swedish almanac with name days was published in the late 16th century.

Beginning of Celebrations

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Quite interestingly, the custom of celebrating name days turned up first after the Protestant Reformation: Starting in Sweden's upper class, the custom spread to the common people in Sweden and also in Finland a bit later and in 1749 the first universal almanac with name days was published in Sweden.

In contrast, the Danish people never began to celebrate name days. There is a traditional Danish name day calendar, but the names are mostly those of early Saints - so most of the names do not seem to be usable today. Norway tried to introduce the Swedish and Finnish custom to celebrate name days by working out a Norwegian name calendar but it has not become common to celebrate name days in Norway despite the efforts.

Recent Developments

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In Sweden and Finland the tradition has lived on. Since the 18th century, the name calendar has been given more and more profane names, such as royal names, while some names of saints that were not in use have been dropped. In the course of time, the calendar was increasingly adapted to the prevailing name fashion:

  • Addition of Nordic forms of traditional Saints' names
  • Exclusion of traditional Saints's names, that were not (anymore) in use as given names
  • Addition of profane names, such as royal names
  • Addition of more common names which became popular
  • Introduction of special name calendars, as the Sami, the Finnish Orthodox, the Faroese, the Finlandswedish ones, nowadays also name calendars for pets
  • Addition of more "exotic" foreign names, some of them preferably used by immigrants

Future

The celebration of name days is still popular in Sweden and Finland but as the name pool from which parents choose their children's names is growing, the official name day calendars are becoming outdated rather quickly.

The official publishers of the calendars have tried to keep up with the name fashions but an end of their traditional calendars is in sight. There are websites on the internet, which put a name day to each name on their site, thousands more than on the offical lists. So probably it is only a question of a few decades until a very liberal usage of name days will become normal or the custom dies out.

Name Days on Nordic Names

We chose to publish the official lists on Nordic Names and not to create our own lists so that every name can have a name day. If you are looking for a name day for a name which does not have a name day on our site, we recomment this:

  • If the name is a variant form of a name with a name day, pick that name's name day
  • If the name is not a variant form of a name with a name day
    • Pick the day of a name which has the same or similar meaning
    • Pick the day of a name which sounds similar


The Finnish official publisher of the name calendar wants to earn money by selling printed calendars and does not allow their current lists to appear anywhere else than on their own homepage. So on the Finnish, Finlandswedish and Sami name day lists we publish here, the most recent additions are missing. We are allowed to state the current name day on the respective name pages, though, so the dates you find there are the current ones.

For lists of Nordic name days see here

[1] [2]

References

  1. Bengt af Klintberg: Namnen i almanackan (2001)
  2. Eva Brylla (Red.): Namnlängdsboken (2000)