Monday, November 22, 2010

What's in a name?

Yesterday I went to a baptism, a very important event for every Greek. Because this is the moment where the child finally gets its name. Until then it is just called baby. It is still very common, especially in smaller communities like our island that the children are named after the grandparents. First after the parents of the father of the child and then after the parents of the mother of the child.

Many names have a religious background and are originated from the Bible. Instead of birthdays, the Greeks celebrate name-days. Every day of the year has its own saint or even more.

Today 22nd november is the day of Valerius, Filemon and Cecil. Well known days are for example Saint Nicholas (6th December) Saint George (23rd April) Saint Dimitrios (26th October).

There is also a category of names that have a literal translation: for example Agapi (love), Elpida (hope), Irini (peace), Sofia (wisdom) and Eytixia (happiness, which is by the way my mother in law's name) but also: Paraskeyi (Friday) Kiriaki (sunday)

Another very important category of names: The ancient Greek names. These are the very same names that were common in the ancient times of Homer, Plato and Socrates.

Achileas, Alexandros, Aristidis are still very much heard today.

Very popular is to shorten the names, so you hear a lot of Makis, Takis and Sakis for the men and Koula, Voula and Soula for the women.

Unfortunately, not following the tradition of name-giving often still leads to family feuds that can last for generations.
But this will not happen with the baby on the photo above who was baptized Stamatis, after his paternal grandfather. His nameday will be 8th November together with Angelos, Angela, Efstratia, Gabriel, Matina, Metaxia, Michael, Michelle, Raphael, Stratigos and Taxiarchis. A busy day for saints!

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