3 Ways to Celebrate a Name Day

Updated: September 22, 2020
A name day is separate from birthdays and celebrates a day of the year associated with the given name. Here are three fun and unique ways to celebrate a name day together as a family.
3 ways to celebrate a name day

Choosing a name is one of the most important and exciting parts of parenthood. They imply a sense of identity, uniqueness, personality, and tradition. And it’s not just for the first name, it’s how it flows with the middle and family name. One study quoted in Psychology Today suggests that parents choose their baby’s name to signify certain desired characteristics about their children, such as child of God, warrior, listener, goddess of nature, and so many more, including virtues of a family member or religious Saint.

More: 10 Fascinating Baby Name Traditions From Around the World

For some cultures, a name is so important that they have a day set aside each year that celebrates the name. This day is called a Name Day. What’s interesting about a Name Day is that they are completely separate from a birthday. They have a cultural significance that more and more people are taking advantage of, especially because - as humans - we love to find any reason to pause and celebrate life! This article will give you information on what a Name Day actually is and how you can be a part of the Name Day celebrations.

What is a Name Day?

A name day is separate from birthdays and celebrates a day of the year associated with the given name. They have been widely celebrated in Europe and Latin America ever since the Middle Ages. The tradition of celebrating names stems from Catholicism and Orthodox beliefs in commemoration of their martyrs and saints. In fact, name day is defined as “the church feast day of the saint after whom one is named.”

A name day celebrates an official date set in each culture that holds great significance for your given name and its roots. For example, according to Greek Boston, the Greek Orthodox tradition has dedicated practically every day of the year to some Orthodox Christian saint or martyr. In Catholicism, this is true as well. If you are named after a saint or martyr, the day of the saint’s celebration and feast becomes your name day.

If you are unsure what your name day is, you can use databases such as Happy Name Day or the American Name Day Calendar. Some of these dates will vary depending on which ethnicity you relate to the most. The Happy Name Day database offers matches from a variety of cultures. For example, if your name is Simone then all three of their suggestions (English, French, and Swedish) result in a Name Day of October 28th. But if your name is Denise, you’ll have four different cultures and dates to choose from!

If you’re ready to celebrate your name day, it’s important to remember that it’s different from a birthday because a birthday celebrates the day you were born and a name day celebrates the significance of your given name. If you’re ready to put your party pants on, here are three simple ways to celebrate a name day.

3 Ways to Celebrate a Name Day

Before you commit to celebrating name days, you’ll want to put together a calendar list of names and their dates. That way you’ll always know, have a record of, and be reminded of those important name day dates. Although there are many ways to celebrate depending on what culture or theme you represent, here are three all-inclusive ways to celebrate a name day that are different from birthday celebrations.

Honor the Saint

Paying homage to the saint or martyr that you or your special person is named after can be done in a number of religious ways. The most popular ones are:

  • Displaying the icon in a prominent place and decorating it with candles, flowers, and other items;
  • Attending a church service if it’s offered that day;
  • Reading a story or singing a song about the saint or martyr;
  • Calling or visiting the godparents to keep communication open and to catch up.

Prepare a Special Name Day Meal

Many folks, especially parents and grandparents, prepare a special meal to celebrate the name day. The one who is being celebrated can choose the main course and/or the whole meal. Be open and have fun with it! Even if the person chooses pancakes with tons of whipped cream, then call it a meal and take time to celebrate. 

Before sitting down for the meal, suggest a toast to the person whom you’re celebrating as well as the person, saint, or martyr he or she is named after. Send out special invites ahead of time if it’s a larger gathering, and give a little background information about the name to make the invitation even more special. Make this meal all about the name, and in some cultures, they even require the name day person to be the one who serves the food!

Gifting

In many cultures who celebrate name days, it is customary for the name day person to bring treats to people in their classrooms or workplace. This gives the feeling of a giving and compassionate saint to offer treats and small gifts instead of the other way around like at a birthday celebration. Workplace celebrations are very common and it’s normal for colleagues to get into a line and offer the name day person a small gift like a flower, piece of cake or candy, or some other small token of celebration. Most importantly, since it is a name day, gifts or treats engraved with the person’s name are very fitting since it’s the celebration of a name. (Here is a list of some of our favorite personalized gifts.)
    
Name Days are just as - if not more - important to many cultures than a birthday. They are age-old traditions of celebrating everyone whose name falls on a specific day dedicated to a saint, martyr or someone significant person that they are named after. For those who are lucky enough to have a Name Day and a birthday, you have two days a year that are special and specific just to you!