Jan 10, 2007

Greek name day rant

People who are baptised and given a saint's name have an official name day to celebrate... well, their names. For example, all Yianies (Johns) celebrate on St.Yianis's, all Anthonies celebrate on St.Anthony's and so on.

Martyrs throughout ecclesiastical history were bestowed sainthood; Greek Orthodox Church marked a day to commemorate them, hence the name days. It's a big thing in Greece. Bigger than birthdays. In fact, Greek public servants are allowed a day or some hours off (depending on their supervisor, with no docking of wages) on their name day. Yes, THAT big.

People expect well-wishers to swarm in around them, phones to ring, cards to arrive and will treat you something in return. "Happy birthday" wishes, outside the immediate family, are usually acceptable until a kid turns 18, then the name day takes its place.

I never thought much about name days and what started out as an innocent Greek custom has turned into a nerve-wracking delirium of marking and checking calendars, adding alarms on cell phones and slapping of forehead "oh no, I forgot". And it pisses me off. I have a mythological goddess's name, named after my Grandmother. No one celebrated my name, because mythological and non-church-going names aren't kosher. Oddly, I married a man whose name is also not "church approved" either.

Several years ago, a neighbor happened to stop by on my birthday and I offered her some birthday cake. She looked at me as if I were from another planet.

"Why do you celebrate your birthday?"
"Because it's my birthday..."
"But you have a name day."
"No, I don't, I haven't seen it anywhere on a calendar."

Next day she dropped off a photocopy of a page from an official church book with name days. It seems that all mythological female names: Athena, Aphrodite, Artemis etc. are all crammed into September 1st and she had written a note: There is always All Saint's Day (Agion Panton) for you and your husband's non-Orthodox name to celebrate.

OK, lady. What.Ever.

The name-day frenzy is very stressful if you're not good at recollecting them, like I am. Recently, I forgot to wish a person I work for on his name day and we met in the corridor:
"You didn't call me on my name day. You know I'm picky about that". He is. He marks down all the people that visit and call him in order of appearance and phone call!
"Please accept my belated Hronia Polla (well wishes)", trying to excuse my forgetfulness but he just shook his head and walked away.
Today I saw him again and he's still giving me the cold shoulder.

Man, do I hate name days!

If anyone wants to keep track of 3800 (!) Greek name days visit this site.

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16 comments:

EllasDevil said...

I know exactly what you mean. I just got my 2007 work diary and as well as haing an entire page dedicated to name days... it also reminds you on the day. However that isn't enough for me to remember. I have to go through the diary each year and highlight the name day so I will look at it.

But even I'm not perfect, I got a call from my cousin and I answered and she said "did you call my dad?" and I was like "no, why? is everything OK?" and then I realized, it was his name day but thanks to my cousin, I got there in time.

BUT... obviously I'm not going to make a big deal of it but on my name day Melusina left a comment on one of my blog posts just to wish me xronia polla..... no other blogger did

Need I say more?

V-Grrrl said...

Wow, I had no idea this custom existed or had such importance. OK, Flubberwinkle, when is my name day?

nuntius said...

Well september 1st is my birthday. So we celebrate together for a different reason the same day. And i always had this question: in that situation (or if two persons have the same name), who has to call who? Or should they call each other twice? Strange... Christian frenzy!

Flubberwinkle said...

EllasDevil, OOPS! (biting lip and slapping forehead...)

We, co-bloggers need to set some ground rules on the blogosphere. Are we counting real-life names?

Please accept my belated wishes. Since St.Nick's was December 6th and the custom says I can wish you within 40 days, today is the 37th day since your name-day SO I'm IN! Hronia Polla! (There. I just made amends.)
:-)

V-grrrl,
According to the site I added on the post: VERONICΑ (Veronike, Veroniki, Veronica, Berenice)
->12 July.
I suppose NOW you'll be wanting me to send you a card.
;-D

Flubberwinkle said...

Nuntius, We just posted simultaneously! What a coincidence.
:-)
September 1st, eh? I will remember your birthday forever on my NON-name-day.

You're right. What EXACTLY has to happen when two people celebrate on the same day? I don't know. Anyone?

snake (a Cambridge kind of guy) said...

I suppose the kids like it so long as it means more presents.

Flubberwinkle said...

Snake, You've nailed it. Some people expect presents twice a year. On their name day AND their birthdays. It's a wallet wringer I tell you!

Ranty said...

Hahaha @ Agiwn Pantwn!

What day is that again, btw??? My MIL has an ancient name too. I should probably be calling her on that day then... (oops)

Incidentally, she has determined that I have a name day. This notion is based upon her decision that my name is equivalent to Kostantina.

So, if I'm American, can you guess what my name is? :-)

(think icky valley girl name)

Flubberwinkle said...

Hey Ranty! Welcome to my lil'corner of cyberspace.

Hmmm... Now to guess your name.
First of all the fact that you wrote the CORRECT greeklish form of Ag.Pantwn tells me you're either of Greek descent or hang out with Greeks. Then again, the MIL clue with "ancient" name tells me perhaps you're married to a Greek. (See how smart I am?)
And since my icky valley girl name database is rusty, all I can base my guess is on the Constantina clue... IS IT Connie? IS IT Tina?
:-)

Ranty said...

Mprabw! Excellent deduction. It's Connie, and the hubs is from Kerkyra. (I studied Greek in college and hang out with lots of them, so that's how I picked up the language.)

Flubberwinkle said...

Elementary my dear Watson (Ranty/Connie)!
;-)

Beerli said...

Must be a European custom because they do that in France too. They give you a calendar and a number of websites with daily information tell you what name day it is. They celebrate their birthdays too! I like that idea...two days to celebrate. I'd hate it if people got cross because I idn't know it was their name day...or birthday.

melusina said...

My MIL is a Sept. 1st name day as well (she is named after one of the muses).

My hubby really racks up on the name day and birthday thing - because my family sends him gifts for both!

Flubberwinkle said...

Hey Beerli! Maybe I should rethink my stance about name days... Hmmm, I like the twice a year gift receiving! AND I could pout whenever anyone forgot about my name.
;-)

Melusina, Hubby is lucky. Do you have a name day?

melusina said...

Nope, no name day for Laura. Unless I want to claim Laurentius or whatever the hell it is.

Sophia said...

http://www.greeknamedays.gr
Everything about Greek Namedays and Names. Plenty of search options, name stymologies, name stats and full nameday ad holiday list!