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Celebrate Your Own Name Day!

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By Anna Otto, Waltzing More Than Matilda

Name Days began in medieval Europe as a way of replacing the pagan custom of birthday celebrations with the Christian tradition of saints’ days. The Name Day was to honour your patron saint (the one you were named after), and complicated calendars were drawn up based on saintly feast days.

In modern Europe, Name Days have mostly lost their Christian overtones and become more of a folk tradition. Even the link to saints’ feast days seem to have been broken in many countries, with the date of the Name Day not always correlating with any special date in the saint’s hagiography.

In many countries, your Name Day is more of a big deal than your birthday, and it is certainly a lot more public. While only family and close friends might know when your birthday is, everyone who knows your name knows when it’s your Name Day – it’s written right there in the calendar!

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abby--11-11-13

The Nameberry 9 by Abby Sandel of Appellation Mountain

Do you celebrate your name day?

While the idea is little known in the US, many cultures prefer name days to birthdays.  The idea is simple: instead of celebrating your day of birth, you and every other Margaret or Joseph or Andrew are feted on the same day.

The custom has its origins in saints’ feast days, but plenty of non-saintly names exist on national calendars.  Wanda is a legendary figure in Poland, so no surprise she has a name day there, along with other Slavic staples like Bogdan, Dobromir, and Grazyna.

Some parents look to these calendars for baby naming inspiration.  Born on March 17th?  Patrick is a nice name.

Word is that Facebook is now encouraging users to add their name day celebrations to their profiles.  Americans love a holiday, from Halloween to Cinco de Mayo.  Could name days catch on here?

I’m in favor.  Double the reasons for cupcakes!

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