July 20 – A Name Day in Bulgaria

Posted on July 20, 2016

In the past, in Bulgaria, people were supposed to be ready to feed and entertain any and all guests who drop by, uninvited, on their name day. For example, all the Ivans had to be ready to feed gosh-knows-how-many people on January 7, and all the Darias had to be ready on March 19.

Since people presumably knew more than one Ivan or Daria, I'd think it would've been tough to make a rough guess of how many guests to expect. I guess you made a giant pot of food and...waited?

It's generally not that way, anymore. (Thank goodness!) These days, the person with the celebrated name invites family and friends to his or her home, or even to a restaurant, and things proceed quite like a birthday party.

Today is the name day for people with one of these names: Iliya, Iliyan, Iliyana, Ilka, Ilko, and Lilo.

And all of these names are in honor of St. Elijah Day. (The Bulgarian version of “Elijah” is Iliya.) All Bulgarian name days are associated with Eastern Orthodox saints.

This painting by Swedish artist Fanny
Brate shows people preparing for a
name day celebration.
Name days! Is that a thing?

Bulgaria isn't the only place where name days are celebrated. Many European peoples have name days and the tradition spread to Latin American countries, as well. In Spanish-speaking South American and Central American countries, name days (called onomásticos) are no longer celebrated with parties and presents, except by a minority of the most traditional families.

I would think that it would be hard to have name days, at least in the some places, in modern times. After all, so many parents are not choosing from a handful of traditional names and saints' names; many parents choose names from other cultures, or from pop culture, or tweak more ordinary names to become unique, or even choose place names or ordinary words as their children's names. Here are a few names of the children of stars:

Soccer player David Beckham's son Cruz
Actor Nicholas Cage's son Kal-el (Superman's birth name)
Actress Blake Lively's daughter James
Singer Mariah Carey's son Moroccan
Actress Gwyneth Paltrow's daughter Apple
Musician Toni Braxton's son Denim
TV host Paula Yates's daughter Little Pixie

Celebrate Bulgaria! 

Here are some wonderful things Bulgaria has to offer:

Eastern Orthodox architecture, such as Rila Monastery and Sokolski Monastery

Sunsets on the Black Sea

Belogradchik Fortress – and a few more great sights offered in this earlier post

And of course Buzludzha!!! 

Also on this date:

Moon Day (here and here)

Plan ahead:

Check out my Pinterest boards for:
And here are my Pinterest boards for:

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