Wednesday, July 27, 2011


   Russia has a vibrant culture that is expressed with a variety of celebrations. Russians get to enjoy the holidays of Christmas and New Year twice, thanks to the Julian and Gregorian calendar dates, and they also celebrate many other special occasions not commonly shared by the United States. Name days are one example of celebratons that
are observed by many European and Latin American countries, and still highly regarded today by many Russians.

   Name day celebrations began back in the 1600's with the creation of calendars honoring the many saints of the Orthodox church. The day that a particular saint died came to be known as their feast day. Since many people of that time were named after saints, they would celebrate each other in addition to honoring the saints. With the help of the churches, saints' feasts days became more popular than birthdays and were soon referred to as name days, or angel days.

    Name day celebrations can be often found in Russian literature, as in Anton Chekov's play Three Sisters. The whole first act surrounds Irena, the youngest sister, who is enchanted by a spinning top she receives on her name day. Alexander Pushkin's novel Eugene Onegin also references this tradition by describing a festive party for Tatiana, the main female character, whose popular name day is January 25th. This date is also recognized as Student's Day because Moscow University was founded on that day in 1775.

   Over the years, the custom of celebrating name days has decreased in popularity, although lots of Russian ladies, more often than men, still look forward to these days. Special calendar are usually kept to take note of whose days are when, since some dates honor multiple names and some names are celebrated many different days. For instance, January 19th is the name day for Lidia and Maria, but Maria is also celebrated on February 8th, March 31st, and many other dates throughout the year since there are many saints who share that name

   Modern celebrations of name days include church services and small gatherings with family and friends. Some Russians enjoy the giving and receiving of special name day cards and gifts. Whichever ways they celebrate them, the rich hostory and culture of Russia continues to be memorialized with certain age old traditions such as name days.