What Is a Name Day?

Cyprus is one of the countries where the celebration of name days is prevalent.

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Cyprus is one of the countries where the celebration of name days is prevalent. In the Greek Orthodox tradition, saints are honored with feast days that occur throughout the calendar year; indeed, every day in the year is associated with at least one saint. At birth, children of Christians generally receive a given name honoring a saint. That saint’s feast day becomes the child’s name day. Name days are considered more important than birthdays in the culture. The honoree hosts a celebration at home or at a restaurant or bar; invitees present gifts and everyone shares food and drink, music, and good company. Children have a special obligation on their name days: they must bring sweets for their classmates at school. A child will be treated to a party and should expect special attention from godparents. Name day celebrations are often combined with birthday celebrations, especially when the two days fall close together. Of course, not everyone has a Christian given name; it is common to give names from the pagan Greek tradition, such as Aphrodite, too. What to do? Some simply decide not to celebrate a name day. Others, though, will celebrate on All Saints’ Day. While most name days occur every year on the same dates, some are moveable feasts that correlate with celebrations on the liturgical calendar, like Easter and Christmas. It is common to venerate the name day of a friend or family member with telephone calls, texts, posts on social media, and public gatherings.