View Full Version : Birthdays

23-03-04, 20:44
Every day I am learning something new about Finland and have been wondering just how Fins spend their birthdays.
In England one's birthdays just came and went without too much bother, that is with exception to children. Children always celebrate their birthdays.
Here in the Netherlands both young and old celebrate their birthdays. All the family come around and exceptional birthdays are 18, 21, 50. When you are 50 you are supposed to have seen "Sarah" if you are a woman and you receive all sorts of dolls etc. resembling Sarah, also gingerbread-sort biscuits in the form of Sarah. Sometimes the whole village will know your age if somebody plants a Sarah in your front garden. No hiding your age then!
When a man is 50 he has seen Abraham and much the same is offered him in the way of gifts.

Gita Wiklund
24-03-04, 21:52
How peculiar!
It sounds to me sort of like some jewish tradition! I´ve never heard of anything like it before.
In Sweden children are celebrated every year with cake and gifts. Adults usually celebrate every year but quietly among the closest family and friends. And exceptional birthdays are 18, 30, 40, 50, 100. But there´s no seeing Sarah...


25-03-04, 03:42
In my Swede-Finn community it seemed that only the children had birthdays. We were treated to cake and presents. I wonder if the cake was more "North American" though, as it was decorated with icing and had candles (one for each year of life).

I'm curious about name days. My Polish friends celebrate their name day on the church calendar rather than their actual birthday. Are name days not so important in Sweden/Finland?

Jaska Sarell
25-03-04, 16:34
Both Finnish and Swedish namedays in Finland:
Note, that even the Swedish names are placed differently in Swedish nameday calendar.

:) Jaska

Gita Wiklund
25-03-04, 23:26
In Sweden namedays are not as important as birthdays. Some people seem to celebrate namedays with cake and all, but most people I´ve known do not even recognize a nameday.

25-03-04, 23:35
I had never even heard of "name days" until the last year or so. As I understand it, they're more popular in Finland than the birthday.

In addition to the other milestone birthdays previously mentioned, there was also one called your "Golden Birthday". It was celebrated when your age equaled the date of your birthday. Mine was when I turned 18 (18th of Feb). Of course that was so long ago now my birthdays are more like rust!! :(


26-03-04, 21:51
All very interesting all this info which came from my original thread. Just had my husband's 79th birthday. Big year though next year - 80 - if we're still alive and well!
The trouble with birthdays is the poor soul who has to do the entertaining. My husband's birthday started the day before his birthday when I had 4 for dinner, then the actual birthday, lost count of visitors. Now again tomorrow I have another 4 who couldn't come last weekend. I'm exhausted. How am I suppose to get down to my "tree".
Then we've got Easter and granddaughter 21. She wants to hold her party here at my house and her boyfriend has also joined the party to have dinner. Another 7. I think I'll go on holiday next March!
Mind you, my house looks like a florists. I've had lots of bunches of flowers and my husband has had books to keep him quiet for the rest of the year.
Actually this is our first winter in the cold for 8 years. We have always been in Spain for 6 months in the sun, but for health reasons have now stopped this. Driving 2000 kilometres down to Spain was rather exhausting, not to mention packing and unpacking.

29-04-04, 02:33
I just sent four hurrahs in the direction of a birthday girl, and thought maybe some of you know the tradition. We sing a song, Yes may he/she live for a hundred years..., and then shout hurrah four times to wish a Happy Birthday.

29-04-04, 07:34
Thanks for the hurrahs, Syrene! Every single year is a gift -- and this past year has been among my most challenging AND most rewarding.

Tomorrow night we welcome Aulis and Tuija Kahkonen who currently live in Lake Worth, Florida, to our home in Tacoma, Washington for birthday cake and coffee!

:p Peace on earth!


03-05-04, 21:38
Although it is not strictly Swedish/Finn, these messages about birthdays reminded me of my childhood birthdays in South Australia. I think this "custom" has long ago passed but from early childhood until about the age of 12 I really looked forward to a birthday visit from "Gandi". This was an imaginary horse who clip clopped across the radio waves (in those days the "wireless" - oops, showing my age well and truly now) depositing chocolate frogs in, what now seem to be very unimaginative places in our houses. I can remember mine usually being under my bed and in the bread bin, but occasionally when Gandi (or my parents) were feeling particularly devilish they would leave them in a "mystery" place (under my bed or in the bread bin usually!!). I can well remember the sound effects of Gandi galloping across the air waves. :D

03-05-04, 23:21
Would that be an Australian custom. I've certainly not heard that one before. What we old 'uns learn from our pcs!
Are you a Fin?

04-05-04, 10:22
No, not an Australian custom as such - just something the local radio station started I think and which was quite fun for children in those days. I think it stopped years ago though. To answer your question about being a Fin. I am a quarter of one! My grandfather on my mother`s side came from Nykarleby in Finland. I also have Scottish and English blood, so a bit of a mixture really. :)

04-05-04, 17:03
You're a bit like me then. My grandfather was a Fin, that is my father's father. He came from Vidila, in the Pori province. He died at the age of 39 years, so I never met him. I have never even seen a photo of him. I don't know what my grandmother did with all the photos but she didn't leave much behind. My own father also died young at 54! By the time I was interested in genealogy there were not many left in my family who were interested in answering my questions.
When I look at photos of my father and his brother, I think they must have looked like their father as they don't look like my grandmother. Maybe I'll get to see a photo some time. I've not given up trying yet.
Are you married to an Englishman?

June Pelo
04-05-04, 18:22
In his book "Finnish Folk Culture", Ilmar Talve said that celebrating name days is a recent custom except in the upper classes and rural regions of southwest Finland, but was quite common in the towns and merchant families of German origin. Adults observed their name day by serving coffee and giving presents, later also by a dawn serenade, wreaths of flowers, etc. Celebrating name days didn't spread from southwest Finland until the end of the 19th century.

He also wrote that only the birthdays of kings and leading cultural figures were publicly celebrated in the 18th and 19th centuries. After the turn of the century the 50th and 60th birthdays were first celebrated by the gentry and townspeople. In the 1920s and 1930s the custom was observed in rural regions by civil servants and leading local figures. The custom of celebrating major birthdays (50 or more) did not become common until after the Second World War.


04-05-04, 20:05
Hi again

Yes, I am married to an Englishman, but I was born in and lived most of my single life (when I wasn`t travelling about the globe) in Australia. I forgot to mention that my Christian name is apparently Welsh which makes me even more of a mixture. If you want to know more about my grandfather his story is in the "History and Culture" section of Finlander headed "Matts Sundberg from Nykarleby....."