Friday, January 28, 2005

Flags on buses, in front of government buildings, atop random apartment buildings, on the corner outside the office. In a land where people are skeptical about displays of patriotism, this sudden waving of flags all over the place could only be some kind of vaguely political holiday, I decided.

When I checked my calendar after I arrived at work, I saw that, yes, it was a vaguely political holiday: the name day of the king.

"My father has the same name day as the king," K., my co-worker said. "When I was little and the old king died, I asked my father why he couldn't become king, since he had the same name day."

I like the idea of having a kind of second birthday, celebrating on the saint's day of whatever saint you share your name with, which is more or less what a name day is (although many Swedish names aren't tied to any saint, but still have a day assigned to them). It's kind of charming. A remnant of old religious practice and a time when the church held sway over people's day-to-day lives. Sort of like all Swedish bank holidays, which are with one exception - midsummer - nominally Christian holidays in a decidedly secular country.

As opposed to in the States, where all bank holidays with one exception - Christmas - are decidedly non-Christian, but the country seems to be anything but secular.

Please, give me religious remnants in the form of holidays and name days, as opposed to religious remnants in the form of laws enshrining religious beliefs, religious doctrine posted in public government spaces and children being forced to recite daily a belief in "God."

Uh, maybe remnants is the wrong word.

The Swedish word for the day is makt. It means power.

- by Francis S.

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