Name Days

Discussion in 'Cultural Discussions' started by Ilmo, Feb 19, 2006.

  1. Ilmo

    Ilmo Member Emeritus

    I guess that the tradition to celebrate one's birthday, once each year, is rather universal (or at least global!). Or are the cultures where this kind of anniversaries are neglected?
    But my question is: How general is the habit to celebrate also the name day (el día del santo in Spanish)? Initially the first names were selected among the names of saints, and each saint had a special day of year when he/she was worshipped, and that day the namesake (tocayo/tocaya in Spanish) usually "offered up" by inviting his/her friends to spend an evening together.
    Though there are no more any saints in the protestant countries and the first names have nothing to do with the names of saints (still they are called Christian names), celebrating the name day is rather important at least in my home country Finland and as far as I know also in Sweden. In the calendar (in Finland) there are for each day, with some exceptions, lists of first names to be celebrated - and different lists for the Swedish speaking people and those belonging to the orthodox church.
    What about the other countries? Do you celebrate the name day, and if, what kind of customs are followed?
  2. Laia

    Laia Senior Member

    Catalan, Spanish
    Yes, I celebrate it having lunch with my grandparents.
    It's just like another birthday every year, but less important.
    My saint is February 12th, Sta. Eulàlia de Barcelona.
  3. lampiao Senior Member

    This really is a novelty to me... I didn't know there was such a habit.
    That tradition might have existed here, but not any more... Or at least I haven't ever heard of it, and I've been around for a couple of years or so ;)... Oh right... not years, decades :)

    Anyway, I don't think I'd make any celebrations on a different day than my own birthday...

    As for celebrating birthdays, I know that Jeovah's witnesses do not celebrate it, for religious reasons, I think.
  4. GenJen54

    GenJen54 Senior Member

    Downright Pleasant, USA
    USA - English
    Name days (or Saints' Days) are typically not celebrated in the U.S., except to my understanding, among some staunchly Catholics, particularly immigrants, in the North East.

    Neither my Catholic friends nor any friends from the Catholic high school I attended celebrated their name days.

    The first time I became aware of this tradition was when I lived in France.
  5. cherine

    cherine Moderator

    Alexandria, Egypt
    Arabic (Egypt).
    I don't know if Christians in Egypt (Coptic Orthodox Church) celebrate the name day. The first time I've heard about it was a couple of years ago from a Greek friend of mine (Greek Orthodox Church) who told me they do celebrate the name day and explained to me what it is.
  6. dbelle4500 Senior Member

    As far as I am aware, no celebrates this day in Britain.

    In fact, I had never actually heard of this until I saw your posting. As you mention many people now choose non saints names, mainly because they like the sound of them. However even if they are very religious, and choose a saint's name, then there is no celebrating of their name's day.

    I am quite intrigued now.


  7. geve

    geve Senior Member

    France, Paris
    France, French
    I would say that not many people celebrate it any longer in France, except maybe by just saying "bonne fête", but without any particular celebration. In my family we did celebrate it, and my friends usually found it strange.

    When my sisters and I were kids, we used to get a small gift and a nice meal on our name day. When we grew up, the whole family took the decision to stop giving presents... Instead, we would go to a restaurant chosen by the "Saint of the day", because, well, we didn't mind having an additionnal occasion to go to the restaurant together :) But we haven't been very loyal to this tradition lately, alas !

    Nonetheless, Miss Météo announces next day's Saint(s) every night, along with the weather forecast.
  8. cherine

    cherine Moderator

    Alexandria, Egypt
    Arabic (Egypt).
    Now this is an interesting information.

    May I ask a question that I hope is not off-topic : Do the celebrated saints belong to the country where they are celebrated, or can you celebrate saints of other countries ? I.e. Do French people, for example, only celebrate French saints, or do they also celebrate Spanish, Italian... saints too ?
  9. geve

    geve Senior Member

    France, Paris
    France, French
    Miss Météo only announces French Saints days, I'm afraid.
    But there are most certainly people bearing foreign names who celebrate it, too :)
  10. cherine

    cherine Moderator

    Alexandria, Egypt
    Arabic (Egypt).
    Merci Geve :)
  11. Hakro

    Hakro Senior Member

    Helsinki, Finland
    Finnish - Finland
    As far as I know, many Thai people don't possibly know their own birthday exactly, only the year. Even in their passports the date of birth was always the 1st of January.

    Maybe this has changed in recent years but I've seen several such passports.
  12. natasha2000

    natasha2000 Senior Member

    This is a news for me as far as the orthodox church is concerned... I really did not know that Greek celebrate the saints day. I thought it was a catholic thing...

    As far as my country is concerned, Serbs, who are o rthodox, too, do not celebrate saints day in this way, as a saint protector of a person. On the other hand, we do celebrate (and I think we are the only ones in the world who do this), saint protector of a family, called in Serbian "slava". Each family has its own saint protector or "slava", for ejample, Saint George, Saint Nicolas, Sain John.... This day is a very special day, for a family, it is celebrated with a big lunch and everybody is invited. It is a custom to invite people only the first time you celebrate it. Next year, everyone is expected to come if they want. You do not invite people, but you prepare a meal. At noon, you go to church to bless the bread and candle (a special one) which is then lighten and it is not put out until it puts out itself. It is celebrated by most of the people, but not everybody.
  13. Roi Marphille

    Roi Marphille Senior Member

    Catalonia, Catalan.
    I did when I was a kid. It was fun because I has presents. It was "my day" because I have a twin brother and we allways celebrate the birthday together, so my Saint day was only for me!
    Now I don't celebrate it because I find it embarassing that people congratulates me and I have not done anything worthy of it...
    and also because I relate this Saint thing with Catholinism and I don't believe anymore.
  14. cherine

    cherine Moderator

    Alexandria, Egypt
    Arabic (Egypt).
    The whole idea of this celebration was news for me too :)
    Another question please :
    On what bases does a family choose their saint ? You also say "the first time you celebrate it", are you referring to newly formed families/couples ?

    Thanks to everyone for sharing this information about cultural differences :)
  15. natasha2000

    natasha2000 Senior Member

    Well, normally, the son iherits "slava" from his father, but if thera are more brothers, then always the eldest one inherites it, and the rest of younger brothers have to choose a new one. You can choose the saint you like, or the saint that means something to you... In the last 15 years, there are many older people who also had to chose their saints, once the communism was dead, and everyone became "all of a sudden" religious (the thing I do not like, because in my country was not as in the rest of other communist countries, people could be religious if they wanted, so from my point of view, the real faith of these newly, "all-of-a-sudden" religious people is very doubtful, but this is another topic, and is not the topic of this thread).

    I suppose this tradition is a mixture of a christian and old slavic religion. In old slavic religion, there were little ghosts called "domachi" (I would try to translate it like "home guardians") whose obligation was to take care and protect the home and the family who lived in. Later, whan christianism came to our lands, I guess that Domachi were changed for saints...
  16. cherine

    cherine Moderator

    Alexandria, Egypt
    Arabic (Egypt).
    Thank you for your answer Natasha.
    I think the fact the religion "merged" with local culture is a common things in all religions/countries. But yes, this is not the topic of the thread.
    Thanks again :)
  17. natasha2000

    natasha2000 Senior Member

    No problem, Cherine, but when I said that this was not the topic of this thread, I was reffering to my comment on "all of a sudden" newly religious people in my country....:)
  18. nichec

    nichec Senior Member

    Same here, never heard about it:eek:

    But many people don't even celebrate birthday in Taiwan, because it's a day that your mother suffered....I left there long time ago, so I celebrate mine every year (when I'm still young:D )
  19. natasha2000

    natasha2000 Senior Member

    What a nice thought... I have never thought about the birthday in this way.... We completely forget about our mothers...
  20. geve

    geve Senior Member

    France, Paris
    France, French
    but it's also a day where she was very happy - blessed with a wonderful child ! ;)
  21. maxiogee Banned

    Nobody in Ireland ever celebrated a name day, to the best of my knowledge. It isn't mentioned in old literature either.
  22. Dr. Quizá

    Dr. Quizá Senior Member

    Esuri - Huelva York.
    Spain - Western Andalusian Spanish.
    I don't know anybody that celebrates that day, although you're usually congratulated and presents are given to some kids then. I don't even know when is my name day (I think it's February 19th).
  23. Cath.S.

    Cath.S. Senior Member

    Bretagne, France
    français de France
    There is no Sainte Egueule yet. I'll be the first. ;)

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  24. *Cowgirl*

    *Cowgirl* Senior Member

    USA English
    I've never celebrated my "name day" to tell you the truth I don't know who my saint is. I've often read in books with Catholic characters of name day celebration.
  25. Ilmo

    Ilmo Member Emeritus

    I got almost as astonished about the extent of ignorance concerning the celebration of name days as those who expressed surprise over that kind of habit in our western culture.
    Maybe therefore I have reason to describe this characteristic of the Nordic way of life.

    In Finland, we have presently 781 first names in the official calender, to which the Helsinki University has the exclusive right. They are divided between the days of year evenly but according to old traditions. Similar or derived names are set on the same day.
    These first names have nothing to do with any saint's names. A new name is accepted to the name day list once it has been given to a minimum of 1000 persons since the year 1900.
    Persons who do not find their first name in the list are allower to select any suitable day to celebrate their name day.

    There is a corresponding list of the orthodox church, but those are really saints' names.
    Also for Swedish speaking part of the Finnish people there is a corresponding list.

    Except in calendars, almanacs and similar publications the names to celebrate each day are published in every newspaper, most often in connection of information about sunrise and sundown etc. Additionally, the Finnish Broadcasting declares those names a couple of times each morning and pronounces their "happy name day" felicitations - aunque, naturalmente, nobody has done anything worth congratulations for his/her first name, except maybe carrying it from year to year.

    Normally, there are no name day gifts, except maybe for the kids. Instead, post cards are used to demonstrate that the friends remember him/her. And it is considered normal and good manners to visit the celebrated during the day or in the evening without any invitation - the celebrated must be ready to offer at least a cup of coffee and a piece of cake.
  26. Zakalwe

    Zakalwe Senior Member

    Like Geve, i used to receive gifts for my saint (10th of january) when i was a child. I also used to buy something for my mother's saint, althought i usually only cut a flower from the garden.

    Mister/miss weather forecast ('météo') always remember us of which saint will be the next day. Normally we only say it ('bonne fête') to the people if we run into them during the day. But for the family, especially the grandfathers, we have to call them.

    A strange habit is that we have to say it the day before and not the day of the saint.

    Here in Spain, we celebrate it more or less like in France. We call the member of the family the day of its saint, althought we generally have more calls to do, as most of the time the grandfather, the father and the son have the same firstname. Saints have also more importance in Spain as lots of bank holidays and celebrations correspond to a particular saint's day (san Vicente, San Antonio, San José,...).
  27. seosamh

    seosamh New Member

    US/Ireland, English
    For Maxiogee - when I was growing up in Co. Armagh my family didn't "celebrate" namedays but I was always told it was my special day - in fact I was lucky because, as a Joseph, I have two namedays, 19th March and 1st May (St Joseph the Worker)! All the kids in school who had the name of a well-known saint from the Irish or Roman calendars (Patrick, Bridget, Colman, Mary, Teresa etc.) did know their namedays.
  28. Fernando Senior Member

    Spain, Spanish
    I celebrate my name's day (1), but in a slighter way than birthday.

    I would say that people I know celebrate name's day (en español, "el santo") just a little or do not celebrate it at all.

    On the other hand, my mother ONLY celebrates her name's day. She does not want to remember how old she is!

    Note to cherine: We celebrate all Christians saints, not only Spanish.

    (1) St Ferdinand the Third, king of Castille and Leon, May, the 30th
  29. cherine

    cherine Moderator

    Alexandria, Egypt
    Arabic (Egypt).
    Thanks for the info Fernando. So you may celebrate an Egyptian saint, for example ? like Mare Girgis ? or Mare Mina ? (I think Mare is the coptic word for saint).
    In other words, would you celebrate saints of other churches ?
  30. Roi Marphille

    Roi Marphille Senior Member

    Catalonia, Catalan.
    well, actually it's quite curious to find that every day in the calendar has it's own Saints. Sometimes three... They say in the radio: today it's Saint ___, Saint __...and so on. The patron of the barbers, the patron of the taxi drivers, the patron of referees I don't know...thare are hundreds! This Saint will keep your eyes safe, this one will give you a safe journey...My 95 years old Grandma prays at the same Saint every time she enters in a car, I happen to remember that it's Saint Anthony. Difficult to take account of them all! :D
  31. maxiogee Banned

    Dia dhuit, a Sheosaṁ a cara,
    Was it in school that you were made aware of the name-day?
    I remember a very pro-Catholic, pro-Irish religious-order-run educational system of the 1950s when that would have been prevalent, and can imagine Northern Christian Brothers or nuns being very staunch on things like that. We knew which days were associated with which saints, particularly the Irish ones (as you mentioned) but we didn't feel any personal 'ownership' as we would say nowadays.

    Beannacṫaí leat.
  32. Roi Marphille

    Roi Marphille Senior Member

    Catalonia, Catalan.
    ...ehem...Saint Patrick? ;)
  33. Fernando Senior Member

    Spain, Spanish
    A saint is saved (who enter in Paradise, if you want). According to Mormons, the number of Saints is fixed: 144,000 (12*12*1,000), taking the figure from Revelations Book (Apocalypse).

    Catholicism and most other Christian Churches do not fix the number, which is assumed to be very much higher. 'Official' saints are just a slight number that, according their notoriousness have been declared so by Catholic Church. If the Popes there would have declared a saint a year 2000/365 days > 5 saints a day.
  34. Monnik

    Monnik Senior Member

    Yo, en México; mi corazón, en Madrid
    Mexico - Spanish/English

    Hi, Cherine...

    No, the saint one is named after (at least in Mexico) does not necessarily have to be from that country (this would mean that every ten people in my country would have the same name, hehehe) ;) (I don't really know how many Mexican saints there are)

    In my case, both my kids were named based on a saint, and we do try to do something special on those days, even though they are still little. :)
  35. maxiogee Banned

    You misunderstand Roi.
    Yes, the Irish claim St Patrick's Day - but Irish guys named Patrick don't feel anything connecting them to the day.
  36. Fernando Senior Member

    Spain, Spanish
    No, we only celebrate Christian saints. But in Spain we celebrate Irish (St Patrick), or English (St Thomas Moore), French (St Louis), Hungarians (St Elizabeth from Hungary)...

    From currently Muslim countries we celebrate St Agustin of Hippona (Tunis) and many others. As a matter of fact we have a saint called St. Maria Egipciaca (St Mary, the Egyptian).

    Here is a list of saints (Spanish):
  37. cherine

    cherine Moderator

    Alexandria, Egypt
    Arabic (Egypt).
    Do you want to say that Coptic saints aren't christian ? what do think they are ? budhists ?
    I think you misunderstood my question, or that I didn't express my question clear enough, and I'm sorry for that :)
    The question is : do you celebrate saints of other churches ? i.e. catholic church, coptic orthodox church, greek orthodox church...
    Any way, you answered the question partly, and I thank you for your answer :)

    P.S. The fact that Tunisia and Egypt are muslim countries doesn't mean they don't have churches.
  38. Fernando Senior Member

    Spain, Spanish
    Sorry for the misunderstanding. No, we do not celebrate non-catholic saints. Protestants do not deal with saints. We 'share' with orthodox a big number of saints BEFORE the split of the two churches (as an example, saints Cyril and Metodio, who preached among Slavs) in 11th century.

    Regarding coptic church. Mari Girgis = St George (of course, very worshipped in Catholic Church). I do not know about Mare Mina.
  39. ITA

    ITA Senior Member

    Buenos Aires
    argentina español
    El día del santo de una persona se llama "onomástico":arrow: "día onomástico" aquí no se los festeja aunque desde hace unos años se está celebrando San Patricio pero la mayoría lo toma como una excusa para tomar mucha cerveza y no tiene idea del por qué de esa celebración.El mio es el 22 de noviembre (Sta Cecilia) un día mas para mi
    Desde Bs As ITA.;)
  40. seosamh

    seosamh New Member

    US/Ireland, English
    Dia 's Muire dhuit a Mhacsi,

    In answer to the question about school, no, it was primarily in the family, though as I mentioned, all the kids in school seemed aware of it too. My primary school did have a strong nationalist ethos, my secondary school was run by a very humane order of priests who were pretty left-wing. even Marxist. However while we were aware of our saint's day we certainly didn't celebrate it in the same way as in Spain, Italy or apparently Finland.

    Further info for Cherine and Fernando: the Western church publishes the General Roman Calendar ( ) for use in Catholic churches of the Latin rite, but countries, dioceses and religious orders also have their own calendars, which may take precedence over the General Calendar. As Fernando pointed out, any saint who was known to the whole Church before the East-West schism of 1054 will be celebrated by the Western Church (except those who were removed in 1969 because there was only anecdotal or folkloric evidence for them, like SS. Valentine and Christopher!). However the Eastern churches whether Orthodox or Catholic have their own calendars (e.g Greek: , Georgian: , Coptic: , ) so a Saint's feast-day will often be on a different date in the East and West. I haven't been able to find out when the Coptic feast of St George is but it's probably not on the same day as he's celebrated in Spain...
    It would be interesting to know what calendar is used in Finland Ilmo - is it the Finnish Orthodox Church's, or is there a Lutheran one?

    Beannachtai libh go leor!
  41. Ilmo

    Ilmo Member Emeritus

    Hi, Seosamh (is it all your first name, like I use mine, or are you called only Seo for short?:) )
    Apparently I didn't state clearly enough that the Orthodox Church in Finland has its own Saint's calendar, but it has only some 60.000 members. The majority of the Finns are Lutherans, but the Lutheran Church does not keep any name day register but the task has been given to Helsinki University which has the exclusive right to publish name day calendars. There are different name day lists for the Finnish speaking population and the Swedish speaking (about 5 %) minority.

    Many of todays first names are, of course, in some way derived from the old saint's names, though they may have been changed a lot under way. For instance John (Juan in Spanish) is used in Finland as first name in forms like Johannes, Juhana, Juhani, Juha, Juho, Hannes, Hannu, Jukka, Jussi, Janne, Jani... maybe there are still more of them. But there are also completely "invented" first names, words that do not mean anything in our language, or words of everyday vocabulary, for instance the Finnish traductions for words like Brother (Veli), Sister (Sisko), Light (Valo), Dear (Armas) etc.

    By the way, also name day calendars with pet names are published, at least for dogs and cats - and those two separately. (So far, I haven't yet heard of any name day calendar for aquarium fishes!;) )
  42. annettehola Banned

    In Denmark name days are very scarce. I can think of: Skt. Hans only. Sankta Lucia maybe too, but that's more of a Swedish tradition. There is also Kjoermens Knud. And of more I cannot think.
    Sankt Hans is lovely, really. It's the longest summer day and we burn witches on great big bonfires throughout the country. We send them to Germany, people always say that. Sankta Lucia is for angels in disguise. Only female angels. They walk with lit candels on their heads in a procession that looks sweet and rather ridiculous, singing a lovely tune.
    Kjoermens Knud? I have no idea what that is. But I think it's something to do with winter or autumn.
    These name days are old, very old. They are pagan.
  43. seosamh

    seosamh New Member

    US/Ireland, English
    Hi Ilmo - actually I just use the English short form Joe!

    From your answer it looks like only the Finland celebrates a real Name-day as opposed to what the rest of us started talking about, which was Saint's-day!

    Beannacht leat
  44. Ilmo

    Ilmo Member Emeritus

    Not only in Finland - at least in Sweden, too.
    Look at the link here . It is at least partially in English.
  45. Zahab Member


    mi family and i do not celebrate names days, the only particular day that we celebrate a lot is Christmas, for us is a beautiful moment to be happy with all your friends and with all the family, also the birthdays for us are very important always we eat cakes and invite all friend, another important day for mi familiy and me is the holy week.
  46. natasha2000

    natasha2000 Senior Member

    Oh really? How interesting, I didn't know that Catholic church had Cyril and Metodio as saints... They are very important personalities in Serbian history. Which days are St. Cyril AndSt. Methodio?
  47. ayaram7700 Senior Member

    Manassas, Virginia USA
    In my country, Chile, some saints' days are more important than a birthday: For instance, Saint John, on June 24, La Virgen del Carmen, sometime in July, Saint Louis, June 21, etc. Many times they have a wonderful party especially on Saint John in the rural areas, they prepare a goose with a lot of trimmings (Estofado de San Juan) and they drink a lot, too. I kind of like this tradition, unfortunately, it is slowly disappearing.

    Bye everybody

  48. Fernando Senior Member

    Spain, Spanish
    February 14th, according the link provided by seosamh. As a matter of fact, I think that St Valentine is no more officially celebrated since it is almost-mytological, while Cyril and Methodio have, of course, much more credit.

    Obviously, Cyril and Methodio are not so well-known in the West, since every country celebrates the saint who has evangelized them (eg, Santiago/St James for Spain).
  49. emma1968 Senior Member

    Personally I don't celebrate my name date, I don't even know when it is, my partner who has south italy origin do .:eek:
    In his name date all his relatives call him to make congratulations.
    Usually they call at dinner time, sorry not usually but always and always that evening we start eat soon and finish late because of lots calls.:D
  50. Lourdes Luna

    Lourdes Luna Senior Member

    Mexico City
    Spanish México
    For many people in Mexico the Saint "El Santo" in spanish, is as important as their birthday and they can plan a big party where there are a lot of food, for others it is less important and you can only say congratulations "felicidades".
    In Mexico my saint day "el día de mi santo" is February 11st, the Virgin Lourdes' Day "dia de la Virgen de Lourdes" , this virgin has her origin in France.
    I know that it sounds strange in many countries, but iyou remember that Mexico is a country with many ancestral traditions.
    Thank to everyone

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