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The Importance of Name Day Celebrations

Name day is an ancient tradition of attaching names of saints, many of whom had been martyred, to each day of the year. Name day celebrations originate from the tradition of naming children after saints and then holding a celebration on the name day of that particular saint. This is a common practice throughout many European countries as well as Russia.

Name day celebrations have been a tradition in Catholic countries going back to the Middle Ages (approximately 5th century to 15th century). The tradition has continued to a degree in some countries which adopted a reformed form of the Catholic faith, rather than following the Protestant faith. A child may be named after a saint who is commemorated near the birth date of the child, or perhaps after a saint who has special meaning to the family. Generally an icon of an individual’s name day saint will be a feature of their bedroom and they are also encouraged to make a study of the life of their name day saint in order to look to the saint for daily guidance.

The list of name days varies from country to country and is stipulated on a special calendar. During the middle ages the church promoted the celebration of name days, rather than for followers to celebrate their birthdays, which was seen as a pagan celebration. This focus on the name day is still a common practice among religious families.

In Russia, name day celebrations can include the giving of cards and flowers and sharing refreshments with the person celebrating. Depending on the financial status of the family, at times the party can become very elaborate.

Name day celebrations usually begin with attending religious services honoring the saint of that day. In the Russian tradition it is common to hold an all-night vigil, which consists of three canonical hours of Vespers, Matins and the First Hour, followed by Divine Liturgy, the Eucharistic service. This is seen as beneficial to spiritual growth and to ensure that the focus is on the saint and not the person. After the religious aspects of the name day celebrations have been properly cared for, a festive party follows.

Russia is an interesting and diverse country with many fascinating traditions. Name day celebrations are one of the many aspects of the traditions that are of importance to the Russian people.

 



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