Bulgarian Namedays Story

How Bulgarian namedays came to be

What is a nameday? In addition to a birthday every Bulgarian also celebrates a nameday. The name is something that you receive at birth and that stays with you throughout your entire life. If you celebrate your birthday, why not celebrate your nameday too?

The Bulgarian name day is a recognition of the meaning of the name, whether it comes from the name of a saint that the person is named after, from a long tradition, or from historical events. The nameday is thus either the birthday of the saint whose name you bare, or the time of the year which is connected to the meaning of your name, or the name of the holiday you are born on, etc.

The name is considered the most important attribute for a person. The Bulgarians have a proverb, which says: "Тhe name makes the man", and another one adds: "A man with no name is no man."  To defame one's name was considered the worst sin that a person could commit. On contrary, when someone is respected by the people, they would hear: "Good morning! Long live you and your name!"  as they stroll down the street.

In the past, the celebration of namedays (name days or name-days) was one of the most respected family holidays. Many of the old people didn’t know the exact date of their birth. For orientation they used the Orthodox calendar and the holidays on it. They described their birth date as “born after St. Demetrius’ Day," "at threshing time," "before grape-picking" or "on Holy Virgin’s Day”,  etc.

According to old legends each man is destined to have a protector, a spirit that guides him in life, protects him from evil, helps him in difficult moments and incites him to do good deeds. After death this spirit accompanies the soul to the other world and presents it before God. During lifetime the protector-spirit sits on the right shoulder of the person. On the left side sits the devil’s messenger and pushes a man to do evil things. Much like in many of the cartoons you have seen on TV. If the protector-spirit is weak, a man becomes bad or permanently ill. If the spirit is strong, a man is healthy, good and kind. Old Bulgarians believed that on the nameday they must pay homage to the protector spirit, for the spirit has suggested to the parents what name to give to their newborn child.

According to Bulgarian tradition, it is polite if you visit your friends on their nameday. You also do this without being invited - this is how you express your respect. When you see them you are supposed to pull their ears up or pour some cold water on their head.

Nowadays, Bulgarians still respect this tradition!

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