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When is my Nameday?

This is a question that Orthodox Priests are often asked by members of their parish.  For Orthodox Christians the Feast day of the Saint of whom they have been named after is as important as their birthday, if not more so. In Orthodox countries, someone's birthday is usually known only by family and close friends, but someone's Nameday is usually known by a broader band of acquaintances. This is especially so with the more well known Saints. Who, in Orthodox countries, doesn't know when St. Andrew's day is celebrated, or St. George's, or St. Peter's, or St. John's? The question 'when is my Nameday?' usually arises when someone bears the name of a lesser known Saint.


In Greek there exists a small book called 'Do you want to know when you celebrate?' The Author has created, from the Synaxaria [Books of the lives of Saints] and other sources, an extensive Directory of Saints and their festival days. But no directory can ever be complete as so many Saints have remained anonymous and many others whose names have been lost to us, are known only to the All-knowing God. Again there are many Saints that are known only by a local Church e.g. St. Bechianus [11th  December], is only known by the Cypriot Church. As Orthodoxy has now established firm roots in western countries, western Saints who reposed before the Great Schism of 1054 A.D. are also beginning to be recognized as Saints of the Orthodox Church. This is in recognition that before the Great Schism of East and West, there was only One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church, thus those Saints were Orthodox. A directory with the names of these Saints can be found on the Felixstowe Orthodox Church Web Site. I have included these saints in this directory excluding a couple which had the date of their repose after 1054 A.D. For the many Saints who have been recognized by both East and West, but with different Feast days, I have opted for the  Greek Orthodox date.


With the directory of the Western Saints there arises the question of when a Saint was officially recognised among the ranks of Saints and by whom. Was he/she recognized before the Great Schism? If so, then he/she is truly Orthodox regardless of the fact that he/she was officially recognized by Rome, but unknown to Constantinople.  If it was after, then the Orthodox Church needs to examine these Saints more closely and then decide if they should be accepted among the ranks of the Orthodox Saints. For now I have included them in this directory and if there are any 'questionable' Saints among them, that is a task for Holy Synods to examine and exclude.


Does every Christian have a Nameday?

Christian Society has countless Saints with many sharing the same name. The Saints were people just like us, but they chose to live their lives according to the commandments and will of God even to the point of accepting martyrdom for His name sake. We Christians who bear their names are called to imitate their life and in so doing our names will also be added to the Ranks of the Saints. God Himself commands us to be like Him 'Be ye holy; for I am holy. [1 Peter: 16]. Of the countless Saints unknown to us it is possible that a Saint with your name is among them. It is thus possible for Christians, who cannot find the Saint with their name, to celebrate on the Sunday of All Saints, when the Church celebrates all the Saints known and unknown. Another way to find your Saint is to check whether your name is a derivative of another name. Yet another way is to find the meaning of your name and then if possible find what the Greek of Latin equivalent is. The name Grace for example means 'the free and unmerited favour of God shown to man;' in Greek the word is Χάρις or Χάριτι = Charis or Charity. There is a St. Charis that celebrates on 28th January and two St. Charitys' to choose from. Not everyone will be successful in finding a Saint with their 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. Surely it would be better for the child to have a name of a Saint so that he/she can celebrate a Nameday! Orthodox children see their Nameday as their own special day similar to their birthday. It is a day for presents and special attention from their Parents, Godparents, Grandparent, brothers, sisters, relatives, friends, teachers and classmates. PARENTS,  don't deprive your children of a second birthday, give them a name of a Saint: Give them a Nameday.  


But how does one celebrate a Nameday?

A Nameday or Feastday, begins with the celebration of Vespers and the Divine Liturgy in honour of the Saint whose name we bear. If we cannot attend Church, because of other obligations, then during a previous attendance, or by phone, we ask that our name be mentioned during the special prayers offered for those celebrating the Feast. [See The Breaking of Bread] and [Order for the Commemoration of Feasts].


It is customary to remember our family, friends and acquaintances on their Namedays, and we do this by phoning them and wishing them 'Hronia Polla' = Many Years [A more western equivalent would be 'Many Happy Returns']. We also give presents to our loved ones on their Nameday just as we do on their birthday. The Person celebrating on his/her part will take cakes to work and offer them to work colleagues. Children usually take chocolates to school and give to their teachers and classmates. In the evening, their homes will be open to all who wish to stop by and offer their wishes and again the recipient will have drinks, savouries and cakes to offer the guests.  Many go the whole way and have extravagant dinner parties to celebrate their Nameday, but however one celebrates one should not forget that first and foremost one's Nameday is a Religiuos Festival and should be celebrated with reverence and decency and not an excuse to have a rave-up party.


The Translation of Greek names into English is a problem. I have followed the traditional Latin spelling, but this does not mean that someone cannot spell their name with a particular form that has found a more general and favourable acceptance. A Latin translation of the name Δημήτριος would be Demetrius, but most people spell the name as Dimitrios. If in doubt of how Greek names are translated check the table below. Another problem is a precise translation of Epithets of Titles. The Greek word 'Οσιος [feminine Οσία] has no English equivalant. It is a title given to Saints who were monks [nuns] or hermits. For the English titles I have used the word Ascetic. Another word unfamiliar to western ears is the Greek word Ιερομάρτυς, meaning that the Saint was a Bishop or Priest and also a martyr. Here I have kept the Greek word in English = Hieromartyr.




Greek Alphabet Latin Alphabet   Greek Alphabet Latin Alphabet

Α or α

A or a   Ν or ν N or n
Β or β Bb or Vv   Ξ or ξ X or x
Γ or γ G or g


Ο or ο O or o
Δ or δ D or d   Π or π P or p
Εor ε E or e   Ρ or ρ R or r
Ζ or ζ Z or z   Σ or σ S or s
Η or η E or e   Τ or τ T or t
Θ or θ TH or th   υ y
Ι or ι I or i Φ or φ PH or ph
Κ or κ C or c   Χ or χ CH or ch
Λ or λ L or l   Ψ or ψ PS or ps
Μ or μ M or m Ω or ω O or o


 Note that Greek words beginning with a Vowel or a Diphthong always have a smooth

breathing ᾿ or a rough breathing Vowels with a rough breathing are usually translated with a H before the vowel. An exception is made with certain names beginning with ε which are traditionally spelt with Je


Greek Alphabet Latin Alphabet   Greek Alphabet Latin Alphabet


E or Ai   ε Hie or Je
Αει Ai   Ιο Jo
Αυ Au


Ιου  Ju
He Ιω Jo
Ει or ει I or i   Hi
Ευ Eu   Ουα Va
Ευα Eva Ουι Vi
He   Ου or ου U or u
Ι I   Hy
Ια  Ja   α Hya
Ιε Je   names ending with ος us or os



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