A few days ago I opened up my mailbox to find a nice postcard with a picture of roses on it from M's grandparents, congratulating me on my "name day." Turns out my name day was on May 17th (I had no idea), and it also turns out that the modern purpose and celebration of name days in Sweden are an utter mystery to me. The custom of celebrating one day of the year for everyone with the same name originated with the Catholic church to celebrate saints and martyrs, but as far as I can tell (just like all the other churchy traditions here in Sweden) the true meaning has been totally lost and now there's just a lot of extra ink used when printing yearly calendars by adding names at the bottom of each day.
When the big day arrived, I was secretly kind of excited to find out if I was going to get presents or breakfast in bed or a surprise party or some other adorable, unexpected foreign tradition. Turns out the extent of M's celebration of my name day was fulfilled by looking at the calendar the day before and saying, "Hey, it's your name day tomorrow." There were two kids at the preschool where I work who ran up and excitedly congratulated me. That was it. So, as far as I can figure out, the name day is something that old people and little kids get excited over. Hm. I suppose I can't be too disappointed considering the massive parties that are thrown for holidays we don't have in the states, like midsommar and totally insane crayfish parties. I'll just have to remember not to hold my breath the next time May 17th rolls around.