You, You we Celebrate!
The tradition of name days in Finland goes at least as far as the 18th century, and as such is one our oldest traditions still celebrated. The tradition came to Finland through Sweden from Germany, where name days have been celebrated from at least the 16th century. The tradition of name days is based on the Catholic Saints Calendar, which used to be often referred to when naming children.
In comparison to birthdays, the significance of name days used to be much bigger in the past. It was common for a person not to know the year they were born in, let alone the day. Celebrating birthdays replaced the bigger name day celebrations in Finland, only after the WWII, becoming a habit as late as the 1950’s. Afterwards, the celebration of name days has continued in a smaller scale.
Traditionally, name days have been celebrated in the same manner as birthdays. A big birthday pulla was often baked in the shape of the initial letter of the person whose name day it was. Small parties were held at the homes of the people whose name day it was. Guests brought cards and small gifts. It was common to give a beautifully decorated name day board with congratulatory poems on it as a gift. The habit of sending cards became more common in the beginning of the 20th century.
The more unusual traditions related to name days were the name day pole or name day fir tree, which was decorated with small gifts, cards and paper decorations. The name day fir tree is the predecessor of the Christmas tree, and has influenced the latter. In addition, nature’s bounties were used according to season: a name day wreath was made out of sprigs in the winter, and flowers in the summer. Marriages were discussed during name day celebrations as well, and a straw spouse could be taken into the bed of the one whose name day it was, without him or her noticing it. A dance could be organised to celebrate a name day. This offered a great chance for the young to get to know each other better.
Often the days of the most common names became proper festivals in villages, since there were plenty of parties to attend. And marriages were discussed. The most important of the name days in Fiskars was the 28th of January, when it is Kaarlo’s, Kalle’s and Mies’s day. There were many Kalles working at the Fiskars factories, and in accordance with name day traditions, people went around congratulating them and offering the aforementioned pastries and cards to them. Later on, liquor could be offered to them as well. This made Kalle’s day quite a festival at the Ironworks. The workers were heard to say later, that “few were the men who weren’t drunk on Kalle’s day”.
Sorces and literature:
Holmström Laura- Minnen från Fiskars
Vilkuna Kustaa – Vuotuinen Ajantieto