As well as the yearly
birthday, Greek people also celebrate their name day. Only the Greeks could
find an excuse like that to have yet another party!
Name-days are an important
part of Greek life because the names themselves go back to the very roots of
Greek culture. You are sure to recall names such as Hercules, Odysseus,
Alexander, Socrates, Plato, Constantine and Aphrodite! All of these names
and many more are derived from the original Greek. The Greek Orthodox
religion, observes ‘saints days’ when individual name-days (and there
original namesakes) are celebrated. Some common name-days are:
Spiros - 12th Dec
Alexandros - 30th Aug
Costas (Costandino) - 21st
Theodore - 23th March
Eleni - 21st May
Yannis - 7th Jan
Georgos - 6th May
It is traditional in Greece
for a party to be thrown on the person’s name day. A Buffet at the house is
usually prepared and there is lots of drinking - usually homemade wine!
Invites are never given - friends and family are just expected ‘turn-up’
sometimes only staying for a short while, as they are sure to have other
visit. (We know 6 Spiros!) During the name-day, friends
who are unable to attend often telephone to wish ‘Kronya Pola’ which
literally means ‘many years’. Foreigners are often unsure if they should go,
but do not worry as you will always be offered a warm welcome and the person
who has the name day will be flattered that you have visited (and remembered
their day.) As a general rule, if you would consider the person a friend
then by all means go. Do not forget though – it is customary to take a gift.
A bottle of whisky is the most common male gift! But also consider a cake or
bottle of wine. For children of course toys.
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Few Greeks tend to celebrate
their real birthday, but western influences have taken their toll! Some now
do have a birthday party – normally for the younger family members. They have
though in no way replaced the importance and significance of name-days.