Cake is always a part of celebrating a Swedish name day Photo: Lotta Hellström

What's in a nameday?

In Sweden celebrating your name day is, for some, just as important as having a birthday. But there is a problem: there are 150,000 different first names in use in Sweden, and only 600 on the official list of name days.

So two new names are to be added: Emmy and Jasmine.

Despite not being very religious, people in Sweden are still pretty keen on the Christian custom of name days - maybe just because of the excuse to eat cake twice a year.

In many countries the name days were based on the saints' days, but Sweden and Finland are unusual. Here new names, with no connection to religion, have been added to the name day list over the past 300 years.

This official list is nowadays decided by a committee made up of representatives that include the Swedish Academy (which also gives out the Nobel prize in literature) and the Language Council of Sweden.

And slowly but surely the committee is adding new names to the list, to keep up with the changing names of Sweden. One of the people on the name day committee is professor Sture Allén, from the Swedish Academy.

He says to Radio Sweden that they do not want to add new names if only one or two people have them, out of Sweden's 10 million, and that there will only be a few that can make it.

Professor Allén also says that, in some parts of Sweden, celebrating a name day is more important than a birthday.

The two new names that are going to be added to the official calendar are Emmy and Jasmine, and around 8,000 people in Sweden are called Jasmine. But a name like Mohammad is borne by well over 33,000 in its various spellings - so why no name day for Mohammad?

Sture Allén says that there has to be a strong reason for a name to be added, and that the name also has to have been used in Sweden for a while, not just be a common one.

But if you - or especially your children - are not on the official list, and want a name day of your own, you can look at the Swedish children's TV channel Bolibompa. They have taken the initiative and added two extra names to each day, and Mohamad is on the 12th of April.

Our journalism is based on credibility and impartiality. Swedish Radio is independent and not affiliated to any political, religious, financial, public or private interests.
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