Sunday 29 January 2017

Name days

'According to the Greek Orthodox tradition nearly every day of the year is dedicated to a Saint or Martyr.  When someone is named after one of these saints that day is celebrated as their name day.'  

When I first came here women did not celebrate their name days but for men it was a huge get-together of friends, neighbours and relatives.  You weren't invited, you just turned up with a present of sticky cakes or a bottle of ouzo, or whisky if you wanted to make a statement, to honour the celebrant. The  house was open for everyone.  

 The women of the house honoured their men (husband or male child) by kneading great loaves of bread , roasting trays of pork or lamb, peeling mountains of potatoes to cook in lemon juice and spent the day bringing out trays of glasses with sticky liqueurs for the women, topping up jugs of wine for the men, laying clean plates and collecting dirty glasses, washing up and even joyfully dancing.  The plates though were broken for the men's dance.  They jump and twist, maybe balancing a glass of wine on their heads, sway to the music while friends encourage them with a steady clap of their hands.

Celebrations went on all night and many guests went from house to house.  A popular name like Konstantinos or Yiannis (every house has a Yianni) meant you could be busy going from one neighbourhood to another, swigging back litres of wine in every house you visited and eating as much as you could of each feast to show your appreciation and respect for the man whose house you had entered.

The celebration would have started the night before after the church service on the eve of the fiesta.  Home made cakes and sweets are offered to everyone after the service.  Housewives would have been busy for days making trays of baclava, galaktobouriko, amigthalota, fanouropita for the church and the house.  

On the morning of the fiesta it was time for church again and often the men would have helped to carry trays of meat and potatoes and big plastic containers of wine to be consumed outside the church. 

They still do this at some of the smaller churches out in the villages where everyone attends the church service and then stays for a glass of wine and some roast pork.

   On important fiestas loud music would be playing all over the neighbourhood and after the first few litres there was sure to be a line of dancers, especially the name-day-boy who would be the centre of the line.

Churches are dedicated to saints and these are opened for a celebratory service no matter how small they are.  Some are only used on their fiesta day.  Some areas are associated with certain names and you'll find the majority of the people in a  village or island will have the same first name.  Gerasimos is asscoiated with the island of Cephalonia, Spiros with the island of Corfu.

Following a death there are no celebrations in the family for at least one year and when visiting during this time you do not bring sweets.  

Nowadays when times are tight name days tend to be small family affairs but still with the dancing, feasting and jolliness of old and women celebrate their name days just as much as the men.

At home

In some villages there will be a local celebration with dancing and maybe food and drink in the main square.  Here a small church across the waters dedicated to the Virgin Mary has a huge fiesta on 3rd june. We all go across to light a candle and maybe listen to some of the service, standing outside.  The big draw is the open air market, with stalls selling everything from honeyed loukoumathes to pillows and underwear, which fills up both sides of the road for over a kilometer.

Αποτέλεσμα εικόνας για τεγεα τριπολη


  1. How wonderful, reading your post made me long for that strong sense of community that seems to be lacking so much now days. What a wonderful way to celebrate xx

    1. There certainly is that on this small island even in these days of austerity. It's a place to bring up healthy children and where you definitely feel part of the community...even an alien like me

  2. Is there a St Zorba day? If not, there should be!

    Oh dear, I see you have Mr Angry above!

  3. St Zorba!!! I just explained that to K and he laughed and said that we celebrate Zorba on the day of the Prodigal Son....which really is another celebration here, for the male population. It's in a few days too.
    No doubt you'll see a post on it soon!
    As for my angry...delete delete delete. What incomprehensible and dangerous sruff

  4. Ahhhh the good old days. Where men partied and women worked!
    I remember those days well. Being a girl. Even at a tender young age I was required to so something.
    Thank god times have changed and women get to party on their name day as well.
    Here it's no longer a big deal. We celebrate birthdays now
    A much simpler way. We have lots of georges in our family but not every George was born on the same day

    1. Birthdays are celebrated too now but my ma in law didn't even know when she was born....during the olive harvest she said and after Ag Dimitrios.
      I'm surprised you remember those days when men were lords. Thought Australia might have made the change a long time before...but Greeks do cling to their customs!

  5. I echo what Cheryl says. We can go days or even a week without speaking to our neighbours. I have noticed that people who live in warm countries always seem so much happier.

  6. These warm countries might seem to have happy people but economically theyre all in the red. Compare the rich cold Scandinavians to the hot poor Africans.
    I know climate does account for these differences, have often thought so. Working hard in a hot country is just not possible unless you have supplies of oil and can pay others to do the work

    1. A bit off topic really. Hot and warm are miles apart. these Mediterranean countries do seem to have a certain joie dear vivre