A couple weeks ago I celebrated my first Hungarian name day. The sweet little girl’s name was Dora and from the moment she walked into the Children’s House she made sure we all knew it was her name day. We of course had to celebrate this wonderful occasion with singing a special name day song and eating pudding for morning snack—it was really good. Name days are fun; they are a lot like birthdays wherein people get together to celebrate the special person by giving gifts, feasting, and enjoying one another’s company.
Since I do not know too much about how name days came to be, I did a little bit of research and have found that the name day custom originated with the Greek Orthodox and the Roman Catholic calendar of saints, wherein people named after certain saints would celebrate that saint’s feast day. The tradition, which is very popular in Eastern Europe and Latin America, is no longer specifically connected to Christianity, however. Name diversity is not too prevalent because there are only so many names to choose from if you want to be able to celebrate a name day; parents must choose a name for their child from a list that contains all the official ‘name day’ names. Additionally, for the more popular names there is more than one day to celebrate, in which case, the person chooses which day to recognize his or her name day. There are even calendars with all the name days marked so as to make sure no one forgets which names are recognized on which days. It’s a pretty serious tradition.
Name days are such a big deal, that many times birthdays are not celebrated with the cake, presents, and parties we typically see in the United States. Birthdays are typically quieter events, but even though name days often times take precedent over birthday celebrations, both occasions are recognized so every person gets celebrated twice a year. I think we should be celebrated every day of the year; not just once or twice. We wouldn’t get any of our work done if we were getting presents, eating cake and celebrating with family friends every day, but there are worse things in life, right?