Why Do We Celebrate Name Days in the Greek Church?

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Do you celebrate your name day each year? Do you know someone who does? As Orthodox Christians, we have two ways that we celebrate our lives throughout the year. Many of us celebrate the year that we were born and we also celebrate what is known as our “name day”. In fact, this is such an important tradition, church’s can have a name day, too. What is a name day exactly and why do we celebrate it? Here’s more information:

Celebrating Name Days for Individuals

In Greece, it isn’t uncommon for a person’s name day to be more highly celebrated than their own birthdays. One of the reasons for this is that during Turkish occupation, it was very difficult for the Greek people to know personal facts, such as birthdays. The Turkish where notorious for not keeping great records and that is why even to this day, it is difficult for a Greek family to accurately track their ancestral information. Because of this difficult, the Greek people began celebrating their name days as a replacement for their birthday.

When a person is baptized, they (or their family, depending on their ages), declares a special name. This means that the name on a person’s birth certificate could be different than the baptismal name. However, most do seem to give the name that they were given at birth. This is the name that the church recognizes during sacraments, such as marriage and Holy Communion. As such, this name is looked at as important, which is another reason why people celebrate their name days.

Celebrating Name Days for Churches

It is also very common for churches to celebrate their name days. When a church is established, it is named after a saint or an important feast day. Each year, the church celebrates their name day on the saint’s day or the church’s feast day. For example, churches named after the Transfiguration would celebrate their name day on August 6th of each year.

Celebrating a Name Day is a tradition amongst month Orthodox Christian cultures. Individuals and cultures can both celebrate it and traditions vary depending on the country. If a church has a name day, it is observed during the particular feast day or church service that takes place on that day. Individuals celebrate their name days during the feast day of the particular saint they are named after. In some Orthodox cultures, the name day is even more highly regarded than a birthday!

Sources:

OrthodoxWiki – Name Day

Wikipedia – Name Day


The Religion section on GreekBoston.com was written by Greeks to help people understand some of the traditions of the Orthodox Christian religion, which is a religion practiced by people in countries such as Greece, Russia, United States, and other nations throughout the world. This article is not a substitute for information found in the Holy Bible or by our church fathers, priests, and other clergy members.

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