Namedays in Greece
Namedays in Greece
In English, the day a saint is celebrated is commonly referred to as "a feast day" ("panigyri"). The first saints of the church were martyrs or those that had shown their love and devotion to Christ until death. As a result, most saint days are still set on the date of death and the return to heaven. Some name days coincide with major Christian festivities. For instance, people named Christos or Christine have their name day on Christmas, people christened after St. Basil celebrate on New Year's Day, Anastasios and Anastasia on Easter Sunday, and Maria and Marios on the Dormition of the Presentation of Mary, mother of Jesus.
Those baptized in the Orthodox Church are then called on their given name day to provide refreshments in any way they see fit to their well-wishers. Godparents play a major role in these merriments as well. Nowadays, close friends and family may hold small gatherings at home to rejoice but one should ask ahead if they would like to pay them a visit. Usually people text or call. The common wish is "Xronia Polla" which accurately translates to "have many years". The invitation is open to anyone that makes the effort to contact the honoree, which could also mean a great night out on the town or a church-based gathering in a square where huge feasts may be taking place!
Listed below are the most common and "important" name days observed by Greeks and the reasoning behind them:
Vassilis / Vassiliki
Saint Basil departed to the Lord on January 1st in the year 379, at the age of 49. He is celebrated for having established guidelines for monastic life that focus on community life, liturgical prayer, and manual labor. It is the Name Day of Vasilios, Vasilis, Vasos, Vasilia, Vasiliki, Vasoula, Bill, Billy, Vicky, and Victoria.
Giannis / Gianna
Celebrated on January 7th. This is the anniversary of Saint John the Baptist.
Antonis / Antonia
On January 17th, the Greek Orthodox Church celebrates the Feast Day of Agios Antonios. Saint Anthony, the Father of monks, became an example of virtue and a rule for monastics, he reposed on January 17th in the year 356, having lived amazingly for nearly 105 years. Today is also recognized by those called Theodosios and Theodosia.
Evangelos / Evangelia
Those who carry the name Evangelos have their name day observed on March 25th, as the Annunciation ("Εὐαγγελισμός") is celebrated in churches on this day.
Anastasios / Anastasia
The name Anastasios is descended from the Greek word "anastasis". It is associated with the Resurrection of Christ as celebrated on Easter Day in the Christian world. Therefore, the name day is celebrated on Easter day, which is a movable day every year.
Konstantinos & Eleni
On May 21st, the Greek Orthodox Church commemorates the Feast Day of Agios Konstantinos and his mother Agia Eleni. This great and renowned sovereign of the Christians was the son of Constantius Chlorus (the ruler of the westernmost parts of the Roman empire) and the blessed Helen. Also for CONSTANTINE (Konstantinos, Kostantinos, Kostas, Costas, Constantine, and HELEN (Elena, Elene, Ellen, Eleni, Lena, Eleanor, Eleonora, Eleonor, Nora, Marilena).
Georgios / Georgia
In Greece, Saint George Day, or Agios Georgios Day, is celebrated on April 23rd. He was a soldier of Cappadocian Greek origins, a member of the Praetorian Guard for Roman emperor Diocletian, who was sentenced to death on April 23rd, 303, in Nicomediafor refusing to recant his Christian faith.
Petros & Pavlos
On June 29th, the Greek Orthodox Church celebrates the feast day of Saint Peter and Saint Paul. Historically the reason why the Church combined the feast day of the 2 apostles into one was that they were both martyred in Rome and on the same day. So significant is this celebration in the Orthodox Church that it is characterized by a preparatory fasting period – called the fast of the apostles – beginning from the Monday after Pentecost and lasting until the feast day of Agios Petros & Pavlos.
Maria / Marios
August 15th recognizes the Dormition of the Virgin Mary. Greeks around the world observe "Summer Easter" on this day in reverence to the Mother of Jesus, which is the figure that is at the center of these festive celebrations across the Christian world. Additional names correlated to the Virgin Mary are also praised on that day, including Marios, Panagiotis, Panagiota, Despoina, Parthena, and more.
Dimitrios / Dimitra
Saint Demetrius's name day is observed on October 26th of each year. Having belonged to one of the most distinguished families of the province of Macedonia and was widely admired for his virtue, he suffered in Thessalonica during the reign of Galerius Maximian (c. 306). In defiance of the persecution led against Christians by the Emperor, Demetrius brought a large number of pagans to the faith and was martyred for it. Known as the Patron Saint of Thessaloniki his namesakes also include Demetris, Dimitris, Jim, James, and Mitros.
Nikolaos / Nikoletta
Celebrated on December 6th, Saint Nicholas, also referred to as Nicholas of Myra (born 275 A.D.) or Nicholas the "Wonder Worker". Famous for helping the needy, following his death on December 6th, 343, the legend of his gift-giving grew. Saint Nicholas was altered into the legendary character called Santa Claus. He is recognized as the protector of children and sailors.
Christos / Christina
In honor of Jesus Christ, this name day is celebrated on December 25th. In Greece and Cyprus, many names derive from pagan Greek antiquity, and there may not be a Christian saint of 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. It is also common to shift a name day celebration to a more convenient day, e.g. the following Friday or a weekend. Name days can be celebrated up to 40 days after the nominal date.