What’s in a name-day?


Parading the icon through the village


Kai Tou Chronou!

If you want to witness a real Greek experience then just check your calendar for the next name day. The Greek Orthodox church has a Feast Day for each of it’s saints and martyrs. On the evening before and the morning of this day a church service is held where a certain type of bread (pentarti) is blessed and shared among the congregation.

If the church has been dedicated to the particular saint then it is most likely that celebrations will contine after the evening service, with food and wine and usually a live band to keep the party going well into the early hours.  There may be street traders, local food stalls and often even a funfair.  Some parishes start the festivities up to a week before, with dedicated locals camping out at the location.

The general atmosphere is one of joy and merriment with visitors greeting each other with the phrase ‘kai tou chronou’ which literally translated means ‘and next year.’ The Greeks use it in the sense that ‘we hope to be here again with you next year.’  Visitors will usually be wearing their Sunday best, despite the sometimes primitive setting, as these festivals are an important date on the social calendar.

All baptised Greek Orthodox will celebrate their Name Day on the Feast Day of their saint.  This is often considered more important than a birthday as great consideration is given when naming children. The grandparents’ names are traditionally given although the baby may also be dedicated to a particular saint, often the local patron saint.  Here in Rhodes the names Tsampika (female) and Tsampikos(male) are popular due to the Monastery of Our Lady Tsampika, who is reputed to aid couples who are having difficulty conceiving. Many women climb the 300 steps to the monastery dedicated to her to ask for her help, offering to name the child after her, should she perform the miracle.

You may not be invited to celebrate with your friend on his name day but it is expected for you to visit him, bearing a gift, as his house will be open to all friends and family on that day. The standard greeting at this event is ‘Chronia Polla’ meaning ‘Many (happy) years.’

Check this link below to see when your name day is or if there will be a colourful Greek festival while you’re visiting Greece.

Does your name have a saints day?

Author: This post was kindly contributed by Tracy ‘Soula’ Hendry-Moustaki and photographs by Tassos Kostas, Kalithies Blogspot

  • Tracy says:

    Thanks for putting this on your blog Cass. Maybe I’ll write another one now depending on the comments!! Let’s hear it then……

Leave a comment!