We all have a birthday which is usually celebrated every year but Bulgarians also have a name day too.
A day that celebrates your name! How cool is that? Nothing to remind you, of how old you are, and another chance to party!
The Importance of a Name
Unless you are the unfortunate sibling of a famous pop star or actor/actress who gave you some wacky name you have to bear until the age of deed poll, you will probably want to keep the name you were given all your life.
In Bulgaria your name has special meaning it was chosen with great care, and if following tradition, your name is only given after your birth.
A name is considered to be the most important attribute to a person, it gives you a title,
a sense of identity, a sense of belonging.
An old Bulgarian proverb states ‘A man without a name, is no man’
Did you know that, to slander or defame ones name in any way used to be considered as the worst sin a person could inflict on another?
Celebrating a Name Day
The celebration of a name day in the past was one of the most respected family holidays and even today after nearly 1200years the tradition of the name day still goes on.
The Bulgarians love to celebrate, and the yearly calendar is full with festivals and traditions to look forward to.
A name day is usually celebrated like a birthday but the food, music and atmosphere, somehow feels much more traditional, and sometimes even religious and so a name day is perhaps taken as a more important event than birthdays.
Name Day Traditions
The name day person will share their treats with work colleagues, children will bring sweets to school to share among their classmates and family and friends will visit the home of the ‘name bearer’ sometimes bringing gifts, but it is not obligatory.
According to tradition it is a sign of respect to turn up uninvited to your friend’s house. You are also allowed to pull the ears of the name day bearer or pour cold water on their head.
This tradition is still going strong and I can begin to see why you wouldn’t want to send an invite! I’m sure there is always hope the uninvited forget to come and take advantage of the day!
The name day person would also be expected to be prepared to treat everyone that comes to a drink and a bite to eat. This tradition is believed to bring you health and happiness over the next year.
A younger person fortunately, would be exempt from preparing and feeding the multitude which might descend upon the household and so an invitation only is usually the polite way in this case.
If you cannot make the party it would still be nice for the name day person to be sent a message of good luck.
The message could be as simple as Честит имен ден (Chestit imen den) Happy Name Day or
Да чуеш името си на внуци и правнуци! ,
(May you hear your name spoken from your grandchildren and great-grandchildren) How Nice!
Origin of a Name Day
Christian names in Bulgaria are nearly all associated with Eastern Orthodox saints. It is basically a day in the year when people celebrate the anniversary of the death of the Saint.
The Orthodox calendar is full of Saints days and when Christianity was establishing itself as the new religion in Bulgaria during the 9th century, many parents started to name their child after the saint on whose day the baby was born. The parents believed that their child would be blessed and looked after by that particular Saint.
In days gone by before people had calendars or mobile secretaries, If you didn’t happen to know the exact time and date of your birth, you would have known if it was before or after a certain name day or festival and that is how some people used the Orthodox calendar to calculate their age.
Notable Name Days
Most Name days are fixed days of the year but others that follow religious events like Easter will fall on different days every year. See Easter Traditional Festivals in Bulgaria
Here are some notable name days in the Bulgarian calendar. The list is not extensive and only offers a guide.
St Vasillius Day 1 January. Vasilka, Veselin, Veselina Vasil
St Jordans Day 6 January: Yordan, Yordanka, Bogdan,Danka, Bogmil
St Todors Day 1st Day of Lent, Todor, Teodroa, Todorka,
St Lazarov ( 8 days before Easter) Lazar, Lazarina
Palm Sunday, Tsvetelina,violeta,Kalin,Kalina
St Georges Day 6 May, Georgi,Gergana
St Cyril & Mthodius 24 May: Kiril, Metodiy
St Peters Day 29 June: Peter, Pavel,Petya,Paulina, Kamen
St Dimitars Day 6 October: Dimitar,Dimitrina, Mitko, Mityo
St Nicholas Day 6 December: Nikoli, Nikola,Nikolina
St Stephens Day 27 December: Stefan,Tanya,Stoyan,Stanka