what’s in a name?

and now, for a post particularly about czech culture! specifically, the “name day”, or as they call it here, svátek. this is a day celebrating the saint that you are named for, or rather that also shares your name. like some other european countries with similar traditions, each day on the czech calendar has one or two names assigned to it. this day is celebrated as your name day.

apparently, this day is like your second birthday. it is more often celebrated with children – perhaps some special treats, like a cake or pastries, maybe candy or small presents are given to celebrate this day. you can see in the photo above at a florist’s, they change the sign everyday to remind people who they might want to buy a flower or two for. (yesterday: valentýna, of course)

now. i certainly did not grow up with this tradition in the united states. birthdays are sacred to me. (another reason why i’ve enjoyed living in the czech republic so much – mine is on a public holiday here!) i think it’s something you have to grow up with to get to know because i can’t ever see celebrating my name day, which i firmly decided i didn’t have, because my name is decidedly “un-czech”.

however, upon looking at my new-ish desk calendar and noticing a couple friends had name days coming up, i realized i had to spring into action – what to do about this name day? i polled a lot of people (czechs and non-czechs) to see what they thought about celebrating name days, and boy, were there a lot of varied answers.

some people assured me it wasn’t very important (especially as an adult) and as a foreigner, it wasn’t so important to celebrate the name days of others. some people told me the very opposite – that it was absolutely a faux pas not to acknowledge and celebrate a friend’s name day. some people fell a bit in the middle, and some had no real opinion but were just impressed that i as a foreigner cared so much about this topic. the bottom line is that everyone seems to feel differently. but hey, culture is my thing. i am here to learn about culture and i love it!

the funny thing was, upon asking a lot of different people about name days, some of the czechs i asked kindly decided on their own volition that they were going to help me get into this


thing. someone even sent me recommendations for celebrating my own personal name day! a bit ironic that in the middle of my research about name days, i could have been celebrating my own. will i actually adopt a name day? probably not, but any extra reason to celebrate anything is always fine by me, especially in the middle of winter when we sometimes need a reason to smile.


from “cynthos mountain” on delos island, greece. svátek: feb. 7th. please also note my adorable recommended czech nicknames… although no one better call me cyntuška anytime soon…

what is your take on “name days”? love it? don’t celebrate them? any other celebration days you’re into?