Celebrating your name day

A Russell Stovers box of milk chocolates.
A Russell Stovers box of milk chocolates. | Source

Name days originated in the Roman Catholic and Orthodox Christian churches in Europe and Latin America. The calendar of saints in both churches listed a different saint for each day of the year, and on that particular day, that saint was observed through prayers dedicated to him or her. Since individuals were often named after a saint, they would frequently observe the day of the saint they were named after. The individual would receive a simple but meaningful present on his or her name day. But there was also the observance of that special connection to the saint one was named after, a celebrating not of one's self but rather the patron saint, a day of devotion and prayers. Thus, name day was one of spiritual growth instead of self indulgence. But what if a person is not a Roman Catholic nor Orthodox Christian? That person can still celebrate a name day, in honor of a more secular, even modern person. Name days are an ideal option for someone who does not observe his or her birthday (or for personal reasons would rather not observe the birthday) and can be informal or formal as the person chooses.

Modern name days

A calendars of saint names notwithstanding, it is entirely possible to have a name day after a more “modern figure”, such as a historical person, celebrity, or high social status. A woman named Diane, for example, might observe her name day on September 3 – the day Diane de Poitiers was born (1499). A man named Henry might observe his name day on September 22 – the day explorer Henry Hudson was born (1570). Best of all, one does not need to pore over numerous history books in order to find a famous figure who bears the same name as the one seeking a name day to observe. Google is the best way to find famous names one might share with.

Calculating a name day for unique names

For the person who has a “unique” name such as Casselyn or Paullard, a name day can easily be calculated using the following method:

0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9

A B C D E F G H I J

K L M N O P Q R S T

U V W X Y Z

Match the number to the letter in its column and add them up. For example:

Casselyn 2 + 0 + 8 + 8 + 4 + 1 + 4 + 3 = 30

Divide the number 30 by the number of letters in your name:

30/8 = 3.75 round up to 4

The fourth month of the year is April. This will be the month of your name day.

To calculate the actual day in April that will be observed as a name day, add the total number of letters in your name to the number 4 – after the fourth month of the year:

8 + 4 = 12

So the name day of Casselyn would be April 12.

In the event that the number is larger than 30, divide that by 2 to get the day of the month on which the name day will be celebrated.

Other specifics for a name day

As with birthdays, a name day might include a favorite gemstone, flower, herb, or tree associated just for that day. These can of course be favorites, so in the above example of Casselyn, the celebrant might always wear opals on her name day, have snapdragons as her preferred bouquet of flowers, rosemary in incense or oil diffuser form, and an oak tree symbol somewhere in the home. Modern name days are meant to be individualized, so there is practically no limit of meaningful specifics one may adopt as part of a name day celebration. If the name day being observed is after a non-saint famous person, the celebrant might spend some time learning interesting or unique facts about the person.

Gift giving on name day

Traditional name days gifts are a box of chocolates, flowers, a good vintage wine given to the person celebrating his or her name day. But the gift giving does not have to stop there, certainly not in twenty-first century America. Name day gifts for women might include: jewelry, perfume, gift cards, movie theatre tickets, or cosmetics. Name day gifts for men might include: sports game tickets, car accessories, or gift cards. For children who are just beginning to celebrate their name days, a toy or game is an appropriate present. Of course, more long term gifts for children are also desirable, such as starting a college fund. It is not at all improper to ask the person celebrating a name day what he or she would like to receive in the way of a gift.

Dictionary of Patron Saints' Names

Saints, Signs and Symbols

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