I’m looking at the Cosmos Philly website to see what is happening in the community and catch up on some local news. I see the “Name Day” box on the right side and read the names for the name days being celebrated today, tomorrow, and the day after. Thank God for this box because I wouldn’t know when to say “xronia polla” to a person named Efprepeos. Actually, I don’t know anyone named Efprepeos so even if I knew it was the name day for Efprepeos, I couldn’t find anyone named Efprepeos to say “xronia polla.”
So what are name days? It’s the feast day of the Christian saint or martyr that you were named after. And in Greece, name days are celebrated more than birthdays, although I am sure that is changing too. Another difference between birthdays and names days is that for birthdays, the person celebrating receives gifts. For name days, the person celebrating is expected to “kerási” or treat his friends and relatives, maybe with a shot of Metaxa and some glyka.
According to www.namedays.gr, they currently have around 3,800 names that would have a name day associated with them listed in their portal and they are about to add about 28,000 more. Wow. That averages out to about 87.12 name days per day! Who kept this list before computers?
Growing up, all the Greek names I knew were limited to the popular ones – Giorgos, Nikos, Vasilis, Yiannis, Kostas, Katerina, Eleni, Sophia, Maria, etc. etc. As I grew up, I started to learn some of the other Greek names that weren’t so popular like Nektarios, Stamati, Agapios, and Timotheos. No offense to those with these names, but, I never came across them and the 28,000 others. So I looked online for Greek names and wow… there are a lot, some from the ancient times, other from religious origins.
This has made me think and you know what happens when I think. Here in the states, over the past 20 years, African-Americans have taken names and respelled them. For example, instead of Antoine, its Antwan. The name, Deshawn is merely taking the prefix, “De” and adding it to Shawn or they add the prefix, “Ke” too, making it Keshawn. We use to laugh at some of the spellings.
But who’s laughing now? 28,000 Greek names? Names like Helladios, Orestis, Herodion, Mata, Abrax, and the list goes on and on and on. Really? If you do think about it, Greeks have been around for a very long time so you would assume that would be a lot of them. How about we add the “De” in front, like DeGiorgos, DeYiannis, or DeDemetra? No… that doesn’t work with Greek names.
Let’s get back to the name days. My beef with name days is that everyone knows the name days of people with the popular names like Giorgo, Maria, Vasili, Demetri, etc., and on their particular day, people ask me, “Did you call Maria for her name day?” And I usually answer, “No.” They get angry and give me a quizzical look. They demand to know why I didn’t call Maria. “It’s her name day today, don’t you know?” they respond. I have an easy answer. I only call those who call me.
That sounds a little childish or presumptuous. Sure it’s easy to remember Maria or Giorgo, but try remembering me on my day. It’s November 1 because my name is Argyrios not Haralambos. If you call me on my name day then I know you are truly a friend. Right? Besides, if I miss your name day this year, another one is coming around next year and the year after that.
And surprise, some people don’t have a name days because their name is not associated with a religious saint or other Greek Orthodox martyr. Like my friend Polivios. No name day, no Metaxa no glyka, no nothing. Not even a little hronia polla. But every time I see him, I do wish him hronia polla. Just to make him feel like part of the gang!
Going back to the African-American respelling of names, I’ve decided to change the spelling of my name. It is now, XHarry… the “X” is silent. Xronia Polla to Polivios and everyone celebrating today, tomorrow or the day after.
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