Sweden has a custom of celebrating name days. In early Christian times, it was decreed that parents name their children after saints, providing both a model and protection. By the late Middle Ages the name day had become not only a commemorative day for the saint but also an occasion for a family feast.
After the Reformation in Europe, there was a split between the Reformed Church and the Evangelical-Lutheran Church. In countries that had earlier adapted foreign (saint’s) names to their own languages and where secular names were added to the calendar, the practice of name days lived on. Sweden and Finland differ therefore from countries such as England, Holland and (the Protestant parts of) Switzerland and Germany.
Since 1994, the Swedish Academy has published its own almanac. Its list of names equals those of other almanacs — 615 names — but it also has a supplementary list of 1,369 names that are linguistically related to the others. Thus, on 28 February, not only can Maria celebrate but also Maja, Mimmi and Mirja. The current list was adopted in 2001 and is administered by the Academy’s Name Register Committee.