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Question 248

Why does our church not allow us to Christen our children any name we choose? I was told it had to be from the bible. Is this correct?  


Answer to Question 248


The rules on names rests with the decision of the Holy Synod of each local Church or with the Metropolitan. Up to a few years ago in Cyprus we insisted on names being derived from names of saints or church calendar events so that the person would have a feast-day. This would be the ideal especially as in the Orthodox world people celebrate their name-day more than their birthday and more than not, they identify with the saint whose name they share and adopt him/her as their special saint. Orthodox children see their Nameday as their own special day and an occasion for presents and special attention from their Parents, Godparents, Grandparent, brothers, sisters, relatives, friends, teachers and classmates. 


This is not always possible as we also have a tradition of Ancient Greek names e.g. Amalia, Agamemnon, Odysseus, Yvonne, Telemaxos, Paris, Persephone and others which have been around for centuries and very often are names of grandparents which tradition demands must be passed on to the grandchildren. The Church recognizes these names and allows them to be used although this does away with the argument that the person must have a feast-day to celebrate.


Today (in Limassol) we usually accept the name of a child as it is registered on the birth certificate so that there would not be conflicting names between the civil and church records. As the child is registered months before the baptism, the Church has no control of the names parents choose for their babies. 


The narrow-minded argument to keep only to names in the Greek calendar of saints and Ancient Greek names puts forth a very nationalistic attitude and denies that Orthodoxy is universal with many saints from other countries. Brendan, Brigid, Cadfan, Caidoc, Elwin and many many other Irish, Scottish, Welsh or English names would seem very foreign and unorthodox names to a Greek priest but they are names of saints recognized as Orthodox saints because they existed before the Great Schism of 1054. 


Another argument for Non Saint names is that we are all called to be saints. By being baptized with an unusual name, the name automatically becomes a Christian name and if the person is blessed with salvation then it also becomes a Saintís name.


In recent years there has been a trend by parents to find or make up the most original name for their child just to be different, but as Christians surely it would be better for the child to have a name of a Saint so that he/she can celebrate a Nameday! An original name might be trendy but what parents donít realise is that they are depriving their children of a second birthday. Thus to all expecting parents I would say: give your child a name of a Saint: Give your children a Nameday.