What is “Ministeriet gratulerar”?

The Category “Ministeriet Gratulerar” has given our English readers something to wonder about. An explanation is perhaps appropriate. It has to do with the Swedish tradition of “name days”.

The Swedish namedays is a list of names where each name is associated with a specific date. If your name is the same as the nameday of some date, you can celebrate your “nameday” on that date; it can be like a “little birthday” for you. Since there are much more than 365 names in use, nowadays each date usually have more than one name associated to it.

almanacka-m-namnsdag.jpg

Common swedish almanac with the names at every date.

Namedays are not celebrated in all countries – in Europe nameday celebration is an unknown custom in most countries. Namedays are celebrated in Sweden and Finland, and in several countries in eastern Europe, including Greece.

These namedays have their origin in the list of martyrs and saints in the Catholic Church, which was a list of feasts, celebrated in the memory of the martyr or the saint. During medieval times namedays didn’t matter in Scandinavia, and neither did birthdays since people rarely knew on which day they were born. Associations named after saints did however celebrate the nameday of their patron.

Celebration of namedays commenced in the 17’th century, at first only among the royalty and aristocracy but later also among common people. During the 19’th century celebration if the king’s nameday became popular in the cities. In the countryside people usually celebrated birthdays in south-western Sweden but in the rest of the country, celebration of namedays was more common. The Swedish Church (which was a State Church from 1527 to 1999) encouraged the celebration of namedays, since the Church considered the celebration of birthdays a pagan custom.

From the 18’th century and onwards the list of namedays was modified in Sweden and Finland, but not in other countries. More names without any religious association were introduced, starting with names from royal persons. In 1901 a thorough modification was performed on the list of names, which then was adapted to the names then commonly in use. When the almanac publishing privilege of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences ceased in 1972, the list of names was no longer perceived as official, and there were sometimes several competing lists of names.

The namedays celebrated here at the Ministry are those used in “Vanliga Almanackan” (“The Common Almanac”).

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