Names Days in the Greek Orthodox Faith

Acropolis of Athens, Greece
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For members of the Greek Orthodox faith, name days are a much-anticipated event each year, greatly overshadowing birthdays. Most children born into Greek Orthodox families will be given a name that coincides with the name of a Greek Orthodox officially recognized saint. The name day is celebrated on the saint's day ​and is a cause for birthday-like celebrations including sweets, gifts, and parties.

 

Much the same as birthdays in other cultures, the honoree is the host, and while most name days are celebrated at home where friends come to call and wish Χρόνια Πολλά (pronounced HRON-yah poh-LAH, and loosely translated, means "many happy years"), some take their parties out to clubs, bars, or restaurants and treat the entire gathering to a fun-filled event.

Name days are one of the few occasions when Greeks often offer food (sweets) as gifts. They are generally store-bought. To learn if your name is included in the celebration list, or to see when a Greek friend's name day occurs, check this listing of name days by month:

Greek children are traditionally named after their grandparents (girls for grandmothers, boys for grandfathers). Traditional naming customs include the father's name as the child's middle name - and it is that middle name that distinguishes the child's place in the family.

As an example, a couple named Ioannis (John) and Maria Greeklastname has 3 sons:

  • Stamatis,
  • Dimitris, and
  • Pavlos.

Each of the sons and his wife has a son. If tradition is followed, each firstborn son will be named Ioannis, for the paternal grandfather; however,

  • one will be Ioannis Stamati (son of Stamatis) Greeklastname,
  • one will be Ioannis Dimitriou (son of Dimitri) Greeklastname, and
  • the third will be Ioannis Pavlou (son of Pavlos) Greeklastname.

The same happens with girls who are named after their grandmothers and have their father's first name as their middle name. As with other cultures, some names are more popular than others in Greece, and on those name days, celebrations are not only multi-generational but can involve a large part of the population!