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Name Days

For the Universe the greatest feast day is Pascha ó the resurrection of Christ. But for each Christian there exists their own personal, little Pascha. This is the day of the saint with whom they share their name. The church calls this small Pascha namesake, or Angelís day. The people call it name day.

A person used to receive their name from the Church, at their Baptism. It was not chosen randomly, but according to one of several rules. Most often the child was named after the saint that was honored on the day that it was born, the day the name was given, or the day of the baptism. Girls were permitted a hiatus of several days, if no woman saint was remembered then. In this way the birthday and nameís day most often coincided and were thus remembered together. To this day those who celebrate birthdays are referred to as name day celebrants in Russia (imenniniky ó from the word imia, or name), but Christians celebrate the name day in honor of the saint.

In other cases the child is named according to promise, in honor of a specific saint, whose name had been chosen earlier and to whom the parents prayed even before the arrival of the child. Then that saintís day was honored, and if the memory of the saint was celebrated more than once, then it was the day that was closest to the birthday. These days many are baptized as adults. How do people know the day of their saint? Using the Church calendar, one must find the saint with the same name that is nearest to their birthday. For example, a person, born in the beginning of July and who is called Peter, will celebrate their day on July 12, but a Peter born in the end of December will celebrate January 3. If there is some difficulty in deciding this question, ask any priest for advice.

One must celebrate a name day like any of the twelve great feast days. Before the Russian Revolution even less strict Christians tried to confess and partake of the Eucharist on this day (one must remember, if the name day falls on a fast day, then the celebration feast should consist of lenten foods).

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OFFSITE: Beginning Orthodoxy, Part 2 - The original article.
OFFSITE: Photography of Sergei Karpenko