If you ever wondered what this is or why we have it – apart from the countless Bulgarian holidays, we also have days when we honor our names, so let’s hope that the following will shed some light on the subject.
Celebrating name days is a wonderful folk custom, still very common and strongly associated with the life of Bulgarians. It gathers you with your family, gets you to make some new friends, takes you away from the daily grind, but, most of all, it shows respect and attention to a person bearing a special name.
Well let’s honor the custom of Free Sofia Tour and start with a small historic introduction. Name days have existed in our culture for a long time. With the introduction of Christianity in Bulgaria, people began to baptize their children using the names of saints from the Christian calendar. It was very common on the day when the Church celebrated the respective saint, every child bearing the same name to go to the church and receive a prayer for their health.
Over time, people began to connect the celebration not only with the name of the saint, but also with the person who carries the name. So this is how, the day of the celebration of a saint became St. Vasil’s day (Vasilyovden), St. George’s day (Gergyovden), St. John’s day (Ivanovden) or simply the day of all those who carry the name Vasil, Georgi or Ivan. To find out whether you have a name day and when it is, you can just go to this site and type your name in the upper right search field.
Opponents argue that this tradition is obsolete and that it is closely connected with religion. But name days are often a cause for celebration and general merriment – who does not like a good party? The reason for this is actually quite logical. Unlike birthdays, which are known only to our closest, the case with the name day is that everyone who knows your name therefore knows when is your name day and can join in the fun. Bulgarians are known for the fact that we love having fun. It seems no coincidence that the greatest saints are celebrated during the winter months when people rested from the work on the field. What do you need to know about how to celebrate a name day?
If you decide to make a visit, you just do it and it may turn into a pleasant surprise. The person celebrating a name day is called „именик“ (“imenik”) and everybody who wants to congratulate them can give a call or do it in person. The traditional greetings are: “Happy name day” or “Long live your name”. Offering a present is not obligatory, but everyone would appreciate something small out of courtesy and respect. An interesting fact is that in the past all the housewives kept their homes sparkling clean, because it was a great shame for them to welcome guests in a dirty house.
Later the tradition developed into preparing dishes and throwing dinner parties for a name day. Everything served is fully consistent with the canon, so if you go on St Nicholas’ day (Nikulden) you will be served fish, if you go on St. George’s day you can try lamb, on St. Peter’s (Petrovden) its chicken, etc. As a matter of fact, this tradition is preserved until nowadays. So, even if you go without invitation you will be warmly welcomed and you will have a wonderful time.
For those of you who are already excited we have prepared a couple of interesting posts on the most popular and most traditional name days in Bulgaria. We will start with…
On this day everyone with the name Atanas, Atanaska, Nasko, Zhivko or Zhivka has a name day. If you know somebody with that name and you haven’t congratulated them yet, just do it.
Saint Athanasius, the great champion of faith, was born in Alexandria. He led a tumultuous but dedicated life of service to the church. Even though he was prosecuted as a child because of his religion, he was one of the fiercest protectors of faith and fought vigorously for the purity of Christian religion. On his quests he traveled through many provinces of the Roman Empire. On his way back from Serdica (the ancient name of our city, Sofia) he founded a monastery named after him. If you already liked our suggestion about the Seven most picturesque monasteries in Bulgaria, you will definitely fell in love with this one. Today the St. Athanasius Monastery is one of the oldest in Europe and definitely a place to visit.
It is commonly thought that from this day onward the winter starts to end. According to popular belief the Lord of Snow and Ice, dressed in a silk shirt and riding his white horse, goes to the mountain and shouts: “Go away winter, come summer!” This is also why the holiday is famous as Sredizima (middle of the winter). If you decide to pay a visit to someone who is celebrating, most probably you will be treated to a dinner of stuffed chicken with rice and pitka.
In some parts of Bulgaria huge fires are lighted and all the males old enough to do it jump over them to get cleansed. You can also go out and pick early spring flowers in the mountain. It is believed that this will bring you good health. Whatever you choose, we wish you a great time and hope this post was helpful. The only thing left to say is Happy Name day and have fun!
Want to learn more about Bulgarian customs and traditions? Do not hesitate to join our Culture tour.