For over 2000 years we have honored and celebrated the Saints of our Church. Saint John Chrysostom states how we honor and try to imitate the lives of the Saints by bearing their name. Our name day is important because it celebrates our Christian identity. It is a celebration of our faith where Christ is at its core. When we celebrate our Patron Saint, we celebrate who they are and we celebrate their life, which was Christ centered.
Our Patron Saints lived and died for Christ. Our Saints receive their Saint Hood in Christ and His Resurrection. Therefore we can not truly celebrate our Name day if we do not have faith in Christ. To truly celebrate your Feast day/Name day means you are connecting with your Saint or Saints who inspire us to follow Christ.
It is imperative that we teach and pass on the celebration of Church Name Days/Feast days and how to celebrate them to future generations. Do we simply wish our children a “Happy Name day” and move on or do we honor the day? If we treat Feast days in a casual manner, it will become as relevant to our youth as Groundhog Day. If we celebrate our Saints, our children will do the same. In most Orthodox countries, a person’s name day celebration is more festive than their birthday. In Serbia, families celebrate Family Patron Saints (called a Slava), where the father’s family saint is passed down. When the Serbians converted to Christianity in the 9th century by Saints Cyril and Methodios, the families did not change their names but took on a family saint and since then they passed it down for generations until today. They gather together in the oldest living relative’s house and celebrate the living members and pray for those whom have passed on.
How should we celebrate our name day /our patron saints day?
- Read the life of our Saint. We must know who we are celebrating. Our Saints are our role models. This day is not about our accomplishments it is about honoring the saint and we must know why they are honored. If your name is not after a specific saint. Then your name day is on All Saints day (the Sunday after Pentecost). All Saints Days celebrates all the Saints that are known or unknown. Your name could be a new saints name in the future. You can also choose a Saint that most inspires you.
- Go to Church. If there is Liturgy that day it is important to go and participate. In the Divine Liturgy we are communing with Christ, and commemorate his Saints and those whom have passed on. By taking the day off for work or school, no matter what age, we are showing
that our faith is the center of our life. If we can miss a day of work or school for an extracurricular activity, then we can most certainly do it for our Saint once a year. If there is no Liturgy that day, then coming to church to light a candle and pray to your Saint is important.
- Honor the Living. Wish many years of good health to all those who share the same Saint as you.
- Remember the deceased. If your name was passed down from generation to generation it is important to not only remember those who celebrate on Earth but those whom celebrate in Heaven. Their memory is eternal if we remember them.
- Celebrate with family and friends. Christ said “When two or three are gathered in my name, so there am I” (Matthew 18:20) The Church is a collective body of people. As you would not celebrate your Birthday by yourself, your name day is to be celebrated with others because it is about your Identity as an Orthodox Christian celebrated with others.
- Thank God for every blessing you have and your Saint for always interceding for you. When someone wishes you Hronia Polla, (Many Years), pray and thank God for them.
May our Saints always inspire, pray and intercede for us! Amen