Greek Name Days

Celebrating Greek Name Days is a Christian Orthodox tradition observed throughout Greece, Cyprus and many Eastern European countries.  Every year, Greeks celebrate the feast day of the Christian saint, holy person or martyr after which they are named.  Greek Name Day celebrations are much more elaborate than the Catholic Saints Days, and historically took the place of celebrating one's birthday.  According to the Orthodox Calendar, almost every Greek Name Day of the year is dedicated to the memory of a saint or martyr, and there are usually more that one on the same day.  The first thing most Greeks do is phone the person whose name day is being celebrated and wish them Hronia Polla, 'many years of life', followed by wishes of good health and much prosperity in their future life.  

On 7th January, the Greek Orthodox Church commemorates John the Baptist (Ioannis o Vaptistis).  So, each year on this day, Greeks named Ioannis or Ioanna (John or Joanna) and all its many derivatives (Yannis or Yanna) celebrate on this day.  The majority of Greek names, both male and female, are celebrated on the same day each year.  However, there are a few 'floating' Name Days, as these dates are associated with the movable Orthodox Easter period.  Since the forty days before Easter are days of grief for the passions of Christ, no one celebrates during this time period.  The most common floating Greek Name Days are Anastasios and Anastasia (from the word Anastasis, meaning Resurrection) who celebrate their Greek Name Days on Easter Sunday, the greatest Christian feast day.  Also, Agios Georgios (Saint George), Georgios and Georgia celebrate their Name Day on 23rd April, but only if the particular date on that given year is after Easter.  If not, their Name Day is celebrated on the Monday after Easter Sunday, as happened in 2022 when Easter Sunday fell on 24th April.  The Greek Name Day for Maria (Virgin Mary) can be celebrated on the 15th August or 21st November, either on the day of her Dormition or the Annunciation, whichever one chooses. 

Since the late 1970's, Greeks have tended to celebrate their birthdays just like they do in most Western countries, putting the Name Day aside.  Today, most young people tend to shun the Name Day celebration, exchanging it for birthday festivities.  However, the older generations of Greeks and those living in rural areas usually do not celebrate birthdays at all, as they are not part of Greek Orthodox tradition, instead they maintain the historic Name Day feast.