In Greece, 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 Saint’s 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.
I don’t have a name day but working at Savvaidis & Associates I get to celebrate quite a few!
There are far too many name days to list them…..
Here’s a few until the end of January!
January 17 – Antonios, Antonia, Antonis (Anthony)
January 18 – Athanasios & Kurillos, Thanassis
January 19 – Makarios
January 20 – Eythimios, Thimios
January 21 – Maximos, Massimos/ Neofytos / Agnis (Agnes)
January 22 – Anastasios / Timothetos, Tassos
January 23 – Agathagellos
January 24 – Xenis, Xeni
January 25 – Grigorios Theologos / Margarita, Grigoris, Grigorios (Gregory)
January 26 – Xenofontos
January 29 – Ignatios
January 30 – Trion Ierarxon
January 31 – Kyros & Ioannos Aaron