09 Jan, 2009
Fact or myth? Poles prefer name days to birthdays
Posted by: Michał In: fact or myth?
Yes, it would seem that – although we still celebrate birthdays – we seem to enjoy our name days a lot.
Quite often people will throw a party on their name day and they’d expect flowers and even gifts from family, friends and/or colleagues.
But what exactly is a name day? It’s a custom which goes back to the Middle Ages and whose origins are associated with the Catholic (at least in Poland it’s Catholic) calendar of saints. If you are named after a saint, you would celebrate that saint’s day. Nowadays the tradition is mostly secular and – although many people are named after saints (Jan – John, Tomasz – Thomas, etc.) – many people with non-Christian names also celebrate name days.
It’s actually a clever thing. You can ‘celebrate yourself’ twice a year (or if your saint is particularly popular, several times a year) Or, like me, vary the times when you celebrate (my birthday is in the middle of summer, when I was a kid everyone was on holiday then, so I started celebrating my name day which is on 29th September).
Every day most radio stations in Poland (and even those in Britain which broadcast in Polish) at the top of the hour will tell you what day it is and who celebrates their imieniny (name day in Polish). Some TV stations and news programmes will remind you who you should give flowers to, you can see the names printed in daily papers and on calendars. Can’t escape it really.
Some name days are more popular than others, for example Andrzej’s name day (Andrew) can be actually celebrated on fifteen (!) different days, but the most popular one of the all is on 30 November and it’s called Andrzejki. This is the day to party big time! The Andrzejki parties are usually a good excuse to do some predictions and get properly plastered.
Today (9th January) if you know any Poles named Antoni (Anthony) or Julian/Julianna (Julianne), you can wish them STO LAT.
Trust me, they’ll love it.
Image © iheartlinen via Flickr used under CC licence
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