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Will Mohammed get his own Finnish name day?

The University of Helsinki’s Almanac Office is revising its name day calendar, but has the time come to include non-Finnish names in the almanac to reflect Finland's increasingly diverse population?

Yliopiston almanakka vuodeksi 2012.
Helsinki University's Almanac is Finland's unofficial baby name book. Image: YLE / Sari Toivonen

In Finland each day of the year is assigned one or more names, and Finns celebrate name days according to the calendar published by Helsinki University's Almanac Office. Name days are minor birthdays, celebrated with flowers, cards and maybe cake.

"To be considered for the almanac, the name needs to have been given to at least 500 children as their first name," said Minna Saarela-Paukkala of the Almanac Office. "But all names meeting this requirement don't make the cut, we look at the big picture."

Thirty new names are being added to the 2015 version of the calendar, which is something of a 'name Bible' for new parents in Finland.

The Almanac Office takes its lead from the Population Register Centre, which tracks all names given to children registered in Finland. The service's search function allows anyone to see how many people have a certain name.

Time for Mohammed?

According to the Population Register Centre's database, Finland is home to over 800 Mohammeds, which fills the 500 name requirement to be considered for the almanac.

But Saarelma-Paukkala emphasised that the name day calendar is based on names given to the native Finnish population.

"For example, the name Jenny is very common but it's not included in the almanac because it isn't Finnish," she explained. "Most of these Mohammeds have another native language than Finnish," she added, pointing out that Swedish-speaking Finns, Sámi and the Christian Orthodox in Finland have separate name day calendars.

The Finnish Orthodox Church has its own calendar of name days corresponding to the feasts of Orthodox saints.

"But then again, our culture is changing and foreigners have a growing influence in Finland, so there may come a time to consider adding Muslim names to the almanac," Saarelma-Paukkala summed up.

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