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How Should Orthodox Christians Celebrate Their Name Day?

Name Day in the Orthodox tradition

name day photo

The non-Orthodox Christians often hear the Orthodox talk about their Name Day which they celebrate each year just like they do their birthday.

Is Name Day just another word for birthday or is it something else?

Let's find out.

What is a Name Day?

In both Orthodox and Catholic traditions, there are saints - people who are recognized as having an exceptional degree of holiness or likeness to God. Holiness is a gift given by God to a person, through the Holy Spirit.

In the Orthodox Church, we pray to the saints, asking them to intercede and pray to God for us. During every Divine Liturgy, we ask God to accept those prayers and intercession of all the holy saints who now live in heaven.

The day of a certain saint’s death is the day when we commemorate them. According to the Orthodox tradition, every day of the year is dedicated to a Christian saint (or even multiple saints at the same time!).

When someone is named after one of those saints, that day becomes their Name Day and that saint becomes their Patron Saint and intercessor on their behalf before God.

name day of father andrey

Father Andrey bears the name of Apostle Andrew the First-Called

For example, the spiritual father of our Convent, Andrey Lemeshonok, celebrates his Name day on November 30th.

However, a lot of people are not named after a specific Christian saint. In the case before baptism, they can either choose their new Patron Saint themselves or simply look at the Orthodox Liturgical calendar and find their day of birth. The saint that is commemorated on their birthday becomes their Patron.

In the Eastern Orthodox tradition, people used to name their newborns according to the same principle, so many people’s birthdays can still be celebrated on the same day as their Name Day.

How does one celebrate a Name Day?

Your Patron Saint is the saint that you love dearly and pray to regularly. This saint is always there to hear your prayers and to intercede for you. It is such an amazing feeling to know that you have a Heavenly helper and intercessor!

synaxis of belarusian saints icon

Icon of the Synaxis of Belarusian Saints painted in St Elisabeth Convent*

This is how the Orthodox usually celebrate their Name Day:

  • We prioritize going to church that day in order to pray to God during the Divine Liturgy and to participate in the Eucharist, which is God’s biggest blessing to us.
  • We spend some time reading about our Patron Saint and their feat. We pray to our Patron, thanking them for intercession.
  • Our friends at the parish or loved ones always sing us the blessing song: “God grant you many years!”
  • Some Orthodox Christians cook and share a festive meal with their family or the parishioners at the church they go to.

If you need prayers for your friends, loved ones or yourself, the sisters of Saint Elisabeth Convent are always here to help. Please click on the link to send us your prayer request.

* You can order this icon and other products of St Elisabeth Convent by clicking on this link.

February 17, 2021
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