A name day is a tradition in some countries in Europe, Latin America and Catholic countries in general. It consists of celebrating a day of the year that is associated with one's given name. The celebration is similar to a birthday.
The custom originated with the Christian calendar of saints: believers named after a saint would celebrate that saint's feast day, or in the Eastern Orthodox tradition, the day of a saint's death. Name days have greater resonance in the Catholic and Orthodox parts of Europe - Protestant churches showing less veneration of saints. In many countries, however, name-day celebrations no longer have connection to explicitly Christian traditions.
The celebration of name days has been a tradition in Catholic and Orthodox countries since the Middle Ages, and has also continued in some measure in countries, such the Scandinavian countries, whose Protestant established church retains certain Catholic traditions. The name days originate in the list of holidays celebrated in commemoration of saints and martyrs of the church. For example, the name Karl or Carl is celebrated in Sweden on January 28, the anniversary of the death of Charlemagne (Charles magnus, i.e., 'the great'). The church promoted celebration of name days (or rather saints' feast days) over birthdays, as the latter was seen as a pagan tradition.
Where name days occur an official list is held containing the current assignations of names to days. There are different lists for Finnish, Swedish, Sami, and other countries that celebrate namedays, though some names are celebrated on the same day in many countries. From the 18th century and onwards the list of name days has been modified in Sweden and Finland.
Name days in various countries
Name days (имени дни) in Bulgaria are almost always associated with Bulgarian Eastern Orthodox celebrations. Some names can be celebrated on more than one day and some have even started following foreign traditions (like Valentina being celebrated on the Catholic St. Valentine's Day). St. George's day (Гергьовден, celebrated on May 6) and St. John's day (Ивановден, celebrated on 7 January) are two of the most popular name days in Bulgaria.
Another example of a name day connected with Christianity is Tsvetnitsa (Цветница, Palm Sunday). On this day people with names derived from flowers, trees, herbs, etc., celebrate. Name days are frequently connected with some year or season features like Dimitrovden (Dimitar's day, 26 Oct.) being the beginning of winter and Gergyovden (George's day, May 6) being the end of it according to traditional folklore.
Name days in Bulgaria are important and widely celebrated. Children celebrate their name days by bringing sweets and chocolates to school. By an ancient Bulgarian tradition, everybody is welcome on name days; there is no need to invite guests. Presents are given.
Common well-wishes include "May you hear your name from grandchildren and great-grandchildren!" (Да чуеш името си на внуци и правнуци!), "May you hear your name only in good things!" (Да ти се чува името само за добро!) and "May your name be healthy and well!" (Да ти е живо и здраво името!).
In Croatia, name day (Croatian: imendan) is a day corresponding to a date in the Catholic calendar when the respective saint's day is celebrated. Even though celebration of the name day is less usual than celebrating birthday, the name day is more often congratulated by broader number of acquaintances. This is due to the fact that the date of birth is seldom known and the person's name is known to many.
The names that are celebrated on the certain saint's day are all the names that correspond to the respective name and all the derivative names. For example, if there are different versions of the same name in different languages (e.g. John), i.e. different versions in Slavic, Romance, Germanic or other language groups, all the respective names are celebrated.
In the Czech Republic, each day of the year corresponds to a personal name (or several names). People celebrate their name day (svátek or more formally jmeniny) on the date corresponding to their own given name.
Name days are commonly of less importance than birthdays to Czech people. However, name day celebrations can be, and often are, held together with friends or co-workers of the same name and in this way it can grow in size and importance.
In the past, by law, parents were not allowed to choose just any name for a child. This has changed, although it is still common to choose the name from the name day "calendar" and any highly unusual name has to be approved by a special office. The original list was the Roman Catholic calendar of saints, but changes have been made to reflect the present-day usage of names.
Name days corresponding to some of the most frequent names in the Czech Republic gained slightly more importance than the others. For example, the dates associated with names Josef (Joseph) and Karel (Charles) are commonly known even by people with different names. However, the popularity of these names has decreased in the last years (6836 Josefs were born in 1947, but only 638 in 2014).
Danes have their own calendar for name days (Danish 'navnedag'), see Danske navnedage. However, the custom of celebrating one's name day is practically unknown in Denmark, and few Danes know when their name day is.
Finns celebrate their name days (Finnish nimipäivä, Swedish namnsdag) according to their given name on the date given by the calendar published by the University of Helsinki Almanac Office (Almanakkatoimisto). Every day except New Year's Day, Christmas Day and 29 February is a name day. For each day there are names in both Finnish and Swedish; the names are frequently, but not always, cognates.
Women are slightly underrepresented in the calendar: approximately 45 percent of name days celebrate only women while some 49 per cent are name days of men. The rest are those of names that may be given to either sex, such as Rauni (15 July), or have both a man's and a woman's name, such as Oliver and Olivia (29 May).
Many traditional beliefs attach to various name days, especially involving the weather and the appropriate times to perform seasonal agricultural tasks such as planting some particular crop. For example, there is a saying that "Jaakko (James) casts a cold rock into the water", meaning that on Jaakko's day, the 25th of July, the waters start getting colder, which is not far from true on average. The seven days from the 18th to the 24th of July, being all women's name days, are known as the women's week. It is popularly believed to be an especially rainy week, and this is to some extent supported by statistics, as late July and early August are the rainiest time of the year in Finland.
The Almanac Office reviews the lists at intervals of 5–10 years, adding new names as they gain popularity and striking others that have faded into disuse. The university owns the copyright to the lists of names and their corresponding dates.
- A list of name days in Germany
In Greece and Cyprus, a name day (Greek: ονομαστική εορτή, onomastikē eortē, or γιορτή, yiortí, "feast") is celebrated in a similar way to a birthday except of expected differences (e.g. no birthday cake). It is a strong Greek tradition since antiquity for newborn children to be named after one of their grandparents. This results in a continuation of names in the family line.
According to the Greek Orthodox Church, every day of the year is dedicated to the memory of at least one (usually more than one) saint or martyr. If someone is named after a saint, then there is a big celebration on his or her name day. In Greece and Cyprus many names derive from long pagan tradition (Greek antiquity), and there may not be a Christian saint by the same name. In such a case the person is said "not to have" a name day, or they may choose to celebrate on All Saints' Day. The vast majority of name days are on the same date every year; the few exceptions are names directly or indirectly associated with Easter, and are floating. This facilitates social interaction, as all Greek language calendars include detailed name day lists. Some name days coincide with major Christian feasts, for example people whose names are Chrēstos or Christine have their name day on Christmas, people named after St. Basil have their name day on New Year's Day, Anastásios and Anastasía on Easter Sunday, María and Mários on the Dormition or on the Presentation, etc.
The traditional format of a name day celebration is an open house: once a family or person may choose to celebrate with invited guests (at home, at a restaurant, a bar or a club) if at all (e.g. following a recent bereavement) all well-wishers may be welcomed. Children celebrate their birthdays and name days equally festively; as the person grows up the emphasis may shift decisively. Entertainment provided by the celebrating host may include a meal, drinks, desserts, music, partying, etc. instead of the guests fussing over the celebrant. Gifts are expected from the guests although they may be something as trivial as a greeting card or a few flowers. Optionally, pocket money may be given by an adult relative or a godparent to a celebrant child or teenager instead of a gift. In cases where birthdays and name days are close to each other the celebrations are best merged. It is also common to shift a name day celebration to a more convenient day, e.g. the following Friday or weekend.
Name days (in Hungarian: névnap) in Hungary are very popular, often as much as a person's actual birthdate. A woman is typically given flowers on her name day by acquaintances, including in the workplace, and the price of flowers often rises around the dates of popular names because of demand. A bottle of alcohol is a common gift for men on their name day. Children frequently bring sweets to school to celebrate their name days. Name days are more often celebrated than birthdays in workplaces, presumably because it is simpler to know the date since most calendars contain a list of name days. You can also find the name day on daily newspapers by the date and on Hungarian websites. Some highly popular names have several name days; in that case, the person chooses on which day he or she wishes to celebrate. The list of the name days is, as usual in name day celebrating cultures, based on the traditional Catholic saints' feasts, but the link of the secular name days calendar to the Catholic calendar is not maintained any more. For example, even religious Catholic people named Gergely (Gregory) after Pope Gregory the Great still celebrate their name days on 12 March, although the Church moved the feast of that saint to 3 September in 1969.
In Italy, one's name day is referred to as his or her "Onomastico" (Italian -nom- for name day from the Greek). Often people receive small gifts on their onomastico, cakes are also baked. Name day is fixed according to Roman Catholic Church saints calendar, giving almost each day a few saints, so different names can be eventually celebrated in the same day. Traditionally parents fix the name day of their child at christening, according to the favourite saint in case of different ones (in different days) with the same name, and the child will bring it all along its life. In case of several names given at birth, the child will celebrate only one, usually the first.
In Latvia, name days (in Latvian "vārda dienas") are settled on certain dates; each day (except for February 29 in a leap year) is a name day. Usually Latvian calendars list up to four names each day – around 1,000 names a year. Recently an extended calendar with around 5,000 names was published, and there are also a few extended calendars found on the Internet listing names even on February 29. February 29 is a popular date to celebrate name days of people who do not have a name day; another such date is May 22. People who do not have name days in ordinary calendars can enjoy many variations when to celebrate – on February 29 or May 22 and, if they have their name in an extended calendar or in the church calendar, on the date listed there (so in a leap year such a person can choose from 2 to 4 dates when to celebrate). The Latvian name days calendar is updated at one or two-year intervals; anyone can suggest a name for the calendar, usually by sending an application to the State Language Centre ("Valsts valodas centrs").
Celebrations are very much like birthday celebrations. It is popular to celebrate name days in one's workplace – usually the one that has a name day prepares snacks for well-wishers, and during the day colleagues arrive one after another with flowers, sweets and small presents to greet him. Sometimes, especially in smaller companies, a certain time is set for the main celebrations. It is normal to come to a name day celebration without an invitation. At school one is expected to arrive with candy for classmates and teachers. Celebrating name days at home is similar to celebrating a birthday, although it may vary depending on the period of time between one's birthday and name day; usually one will eat cake with household members and receive presents.
Name-days (Macedonian: Именден, Imenden) in Macedonia are celebrated throughout the history of this country. It has some similarities with the other Balkan countries but there are some name-days unique for the country. The name-days are scheduled according to the Christian Orthodox church following the Julian calendar. Each month there are several name-days which are celebrated by the people with the same name. Some of the name-days that are more significant to the history and culture are non-working days for the whole country. At these days everyone's invited or would like to say „Кој дојде – Добредојде“ ("Whoever comes – is welcomed") in Macedonian. There is no need for bringing presents but if you like you can bring some (usually wine or something symbolic). You salute the celebrant by saying "Let your name lasts forever" („Нека ти е вечно името“ / "Neka ti e vecno imeto") or "For years to come" („За многу години“ / "Za mnogu godini"). Among the most celebrated name-days in Macedonia are St. Stefan (January 9th), Epiphany (January 19), St. John (January 20), Blagovec (April 7), St. George (May 06), Ss. Cyril and Methodius (May 24), St. Kostadin and Elena (June 03), St. Peter (July 12), St. Paul (July 12), and St. Dimitar (November 8).
Traditionally, name day celebrations (Polish: imieniny) have enjoyed a celebratory emphasis greater than that of birthday celebrations in Poland. However, birthday celebrations are increasingly popular and important, particularly among the young ones. Imieniny involve the gathering and socializing of friends and family at the celebrant's home, as well as the giving of gifts and flowers at home and elsewhere, such as at the workplace. Local calendars often contain the names celebrated on a given day.
Name days (onomastica) in Romania are associated with the Orthodox saints celebrations. Name days are almost as important as birthdays, and only those who have the name of that particular saint get celebrated on that day. Some of the most important celebration days are: January, 1 - Sf. Vasile ( St. Basil), January, 7 – Sf. Ioan (St. John), April 23 – Sf. Gheorghe ( St.George), May, 21 - Sf. Constantin si Elena ( St. Constantine and Helen), June 29 – Sf. Petru si Pavel (St. Peter and Paul), July, 22 - Sf. Ilie ( St. Elias), August 15 and September 8 – Sf. Maria (St. Mary), September, 9 - Sf. Ana ( St. Ann), November 8 – Sf. Mihail si Gavril (St. Michael and Gabriel), October, 26 - Sf. Dumitru, November, 25 - Sf. Catherine (St. Catherine), November 30 – Sf. Andrei (St. Andrew), December, 6 - Sf. Nicolae ( St. Nicholas), December, 27 - Sf. Stefan ( St. Stephen)
Russians celebrate name days (именины (imeniny) in Russian) separately from birthdays. Some calendars note name days, but usually one must buy a special name-day calendar. Celebrations range from the gifting of cards and flowers to full-blown celebrations similar to birthday parties. Such a celebration begins with attendance at the divine services marking that day (in the Russian tradition, the All-Night Vigil and Divine Liturgy), and usually with a festive party thereafter. Before the October Revolution of 1917, Russians regarded name days as important as, or more important than, the celebration of birthdays, based on the rationale that one's baptism is the event by which people become "born anew" in Christ. In modern times, however, few people know the traditions associated with it.
The Russian Imperial family followed a tradition of giving name-day gifts, such as a diamond or a pearl.
Another literary depiction of a formal Russian name-day ceremony occurs in Alexander Pushkin's Eugene Onegin with the celebration of Tatiana's name day. Leo Tolstoy's War and Peace also features name days, as in Book I, chapter 7, where both the mother and the youngest daughter of the Rostov family celebrate the same name day of Natalya.
Note: although the name day ("именины"/"imeniny") celebration is not as popular as birthday celebration, the Russian word for a person having a birthday ("день рождения"/"djen' rozhdenia") is still "именинник"/"imeninnik" (literally: a person whose name day is being celebrated).
During medieval times name days were of little significance in the Nordic countries, except for the celebration of patron saints for various guilds. A more widespread celebration of name days began in the 17th century in Sweden, at first in the royal court and among aristocracy, but successively also among the general population. The Church of Sweden promoted celebration of name days over birthdays, as the latter was seen as a pagan tradition. Although the name day tradition never gained similar popularity in Denmark and Norway, it is occasionally celebrated.
In Slovakia name days (Slovak: meniny) are widely celebrated. Name days are more often celebrated than birthdays in workplaces, presumably because it is simpler to know the date since most calendars contain a list of name days. You can also find the name day in the header of daily newspapers. Celebrations in elementary schools are different from those within the family as the celebrant gives candies to his or her classmates. Within the family, birthday-like celebrations are often held with cakes, presents and flowers. Flowers are sometimes sold out for popular name days. In the past, by law, parents were not allowed to choose just any name for their child. This has changed, although it is still common to choose the name from the nameday list in the calendar. The original list was the Roman Catholic calendar of saints, but changes have been made to reflect the present-day usage of names.
Name days (called god, n., m., sing.) were widely celebrated, and preferred over birthday celebrations, until after World War II and the advent of Communism. In rural areas as well as among certain strata of town people the custom of celebrating name days lasted longer. Nowadays, while the tradition has not been completely obliterated, name days are celebrated mostly among older people.
Spain and Hispanic America
Until recently, name days in Spain and Hispanic America (called onomásticos or día de mi/su santo) were widely celebrated. Onomásticos are not limited to saints but also include the celebration days of the different representations of the Virgin Mary. For example, the name day of a woman named Carmen would be July 16, day of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. Currently, onomásticos are still remembered in more traditional families but are not generally celebrated with festive parties and presents as they were in the past. To celebrate name days, practicing Catholics typically attend mass and have some intimate family celebration.
From the 18th century onwards, names used by the royal family were introduced to the Swedish list of name days, followed by other common names. In 1901 a comprehensive modernisation was made to make the list up to date with current names. The monopoly on almanacs, held by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, expired in 1972 and so did the official name day list. Competing name day lists began to emerge but the official list was still in general use until 1986 when consensus of a new list with three names on each day was reached. This list was revised in 1993 and reduced to two names on each day. However, widespread dissatisfaction with the list prompted the Swedish Academy to compile a new two-name list which was finally accepted and brought into use in 2001. Although it does not have the official status of the 1901 or older lists, it is now universally used in Sweden.
- Sophie Koulomzin (1980), Many Worlds: A Russian Life, St Vladimir's Seminary Press, ISBN 978-0-913836-72-9
- Anne R. Kaplan; Marjorie A. Hoover; Willard Burgess Moore (1986), The Minnesota Ethnic Food Book, Minnesota Historical Society, ISBN 978-0-87351-198-8
- Latvian Culture Portal: Traditional Festivities.
|Look up name day in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.|
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Saints days.|
- (English) Name days for 18 countries by date.
- (English) How to say Happy Name Day in Latvian.
- (English) The first name day calendar in which most of the name days are based on both Saint's days and American history, was published in the United States in 1982, and all of its original pages are viewable on calendar's 1982 Edition page: American Nameday Calendar of First Names – 1982 Edition
- (English) Hungarian Name Days by date.
- (English) Swedish Name Days by date.
- (English) Name Day Calendar by country/date.
- (Romanian) Calendar Ortodox by month/date.
- (English) French and American Name Days by month/date.
- (Hungarian) Hungarian Name Day Calendar by month/date.