Monday, June 06, 2005

My name is Baby X

Babies without names
When our Peanut was born everyone at the hospital simply assumed that she would be known as 'Mom's surname Girl' because in Finland most babies are not given their name until their christening ceremony around the age of 3 months.

So when you meet new parents they will usually be tight lipped about the baby's possible names and tell you the working name they are using. Sometimes this is a cute nickname, like Princess, Mr. Helsinki, Raisin, Bundle, Mini, and so on. Other parents will give their baby a real name - but, it just won't be what the baby will be called.

My theory is that the tradition is a holdover from the days when infant mortality was very high and many babies simply did not live to see their 2 - 3 month birthdays. Another reason friends of ours tell us is that they want to first get to know their baby and his/her personality before they can give it a name that reflects who they are.

The rules for naming your baby
Yes, in Finland there are even rules for what you can name your baby! These are set out by the Vaestorekisterikeskus (Population registration centers) and provided to new moms in a brochure at the hospital. I've heard tales of ministers refusing to christen children because the parents had not followed the guidelines.

> at the most, a baby may be given three first names
> the first name cannot be inappropriate or cause the child problems
> a name is usually not approved if it is spelled in a different way than the usual spelling in Finland
> a boy cannot be given a girl's name and vice versa
> a last name is not suitable as a first name
> siblings and half-siblings can have the same name only when both have another first name in addition to the one they share

> in case of religious beliefs
> nationality
> or other 'good reasons'

discuss your name ideas with the local maistraatti (courthouse) or Evangelical Luthern or Orthodox church, if you are a member.

The result is that there are many people with very similar names and in several cases the exact same name, except for the surname of course. :-) Also in Finland, American style birth announcements are not common. The Sunday pages of the Helsingin Sanomat newspaper however are filled with announcements of when a baby was christened and what their name is. Also mentioned are the names of the godparents.

Ella, Emma, Anni...Niko, Eetu, Juho topped the charts in 2003

For a list of most popular names and the number of times any given name has been used, visit the Vaestorekisterikeskus website at

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