Namedays VS. Birthdays

The personal name-day (Saints day) ~ ‘Chronia polla!!’

Namedays instead of Birthdays are celebrated

Closely connected with the patronal church festival is the personal name-day (also called 'yeorti'), which celebrated by all individuals sharing the name of the saint whose day it is. Thus, when all of the churches called Aghios Ioannis (St. John) have their eorti/panegiri, all boys with the name Ioannis/Yiannis, and girls with the name Ioanna, also celebrate their name-day/yeorti, which has long been of far greater significance than the day of one's birth, hence reflecting the collective, ritualistic and communal nature of Greek culture, with Orthodoxy as a major binding force.

The decreasing religiosity of Greeks in modern times does not lessen the strong emotional attachment to the name day, any more than it alters the significance of baptism of children (see below), as such customs have become deeply embedded in the Greek consciousness, and have an intensely social context.

It is customary on the day of one's yeorti to receive visitors at one's home and to offer them sweets, or even to throw a party with a feast and sometimes music and dance. It is often the case that a family member will plan such a party as a surprise for the member having a yeorti, and even hire musicians for it.

Friends and relatives who live at a distance from the celebrant and cannot be present on the day of their yeorti, are expected to phone up and offer the traditional greeting, 'Khronia polla!!' (literally, 'Many years!'; figuratively, 'May you have many more!). Even those who are in no way connected with those who are having the yeorti (including total strangers) will offer this greeting to anyone with the appropriate name.