The celebration of name days is an important Bulgarian tradition. Unlike most of the old customs, this one has been preserved throughout the generations and is kept even today.
The keeping of name days comes from the Orthodox Christian religion and its saints. The Orthodox calendar is abundant with days devoted to one saint or another. In the past, when the Christianity was establishing itself as a main religion in Bulgaria, the people started naming their children after the saints from this calendar. They believed that the child named after a certain saint will be looked after and blessed by him. With time people started associating the holiday much more with the name than with the saint. For example, the day of St. George (Свети Георги) became George’s day (гергьовден, gergiovden).
The way the name day was celebrated changed throughout the years too. In the traditional way it is not needed to be invited in order to attend the celebration. The person whose name was celebrated was prepared for all the guests that might drop by with alcoholic drinks, sweets and starters or a full meal. It is believed that giving food and drinks to your friends and family on your name day will bring you health and blessings. Nowadays, even though the tradition is still kept, in most cases and especially if the name-bearer (именник) is a younger person, it is considered impolite to go uninvited. Young people also tend to celebrate their name days in a bar, disco or a house party.
The name day is almost celebrated like a birthday. It is however, not required to bring a gift or flowers, unless you want to. And if you cannot go to a name day celebration, it is still good to greet the imennik (the name-bearer) by phone, sms or mail. The appropriate greetings for this occasion are Честит имен ден (Chestit imen den, Happy Name Day), Да се слави името ти (Da se slavi imeto ti, Honoured be your name), За много години (Za mnogo godini, For many years to come). The first of these greetings is most commonly used.
There are many name days, but a few are especially popular. For example, such days are Vassilevden, Gergiovden, Tsvetnitsa (Flower names’ day), Atanasovden, Trifon Zarezan, Todorovden, Petrovden, Dimitrovden, etc. Note that not only people called Ivan celebrate on Ivanovden, for example, but everyone whose name is close to that, such as Yoana, Yvon, etc. So, when do you think your name day will be? You can click here and find out.