name day

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Rudolph Blättler, woodcut : Communion of the saints with the risen one

The name day of a person is the liturgical memorial of the saint in the church year , which the name of this person (patron) . In some Catholic and Orthodox regions or countries, the celebration of the name day is more important than or at least as important as the celebration of the birthday. The celebration of the name day is similar to the celebration of a birthday, so the person is given gifts by family members, friends and work colleagues. In religious communities , the member is not celebrated on his birthday, but on the day of remembrance of the saint or the festive secret after which he is named in the order ( religious name ).

Meaning and use

In the course of the Christianization of peoples outside the ancient Roman Empire, the Christian names became a distinguishing mark and usually denoted a special connection to the saint whose name the catechumens had adopted in baptism . The day of remembrance of the saint in the liturgical calendar of the church had a special meaning for the name bearer, but the date of birth was often not known at all.

In the Middle Ages , when baptized (mostly on the day after birth), the person to be baptized was often given the name of the day's saint. The date of baptism, also the name day, was then entered in the church register. Martin Luther , born on November 10, 1483, baptized on November 11, was therefore given the name of St. Martin of Tours .

The Council of Trento (1545 to 1563) stipulated for the Roman Catholic Church in the Rituale Romanum :

“The pastor should see to it that the children are not given any offensive or ridiculous names, let alone names taken from the legends or from idols or pagans . Instead, as far as possible, the names of saints are preferable. "

The importance of the name day increased in the Catholic Church during the Counter Reformation . Also in order to stand out from Protestants , the Catholic believers should regularly and festively ensure an intimate connection with the respective namesake.

The recommendation to give the name of a saint to the baptized is found in the Roman Catechism in 1566 and in the Roman Rituals in 1614 . The clergy therefore encouraged the celebration of the name day over the celebration of the birthday. The Franciscans and Jesuits in particular later contributed to the spread of newer names of saints among the population.

Since the number of saints is much greater than that of the days of a year, several patron saints often fall on one day. In addition, there are several holy bearers of names for some names; the date of the celebration of the name day then depends on which saint one is named after. The list of name days relates primarily to the regional calendar for the German-speaking area ; In contrast, the calendar of saints of the Orthodox churches and the Evangelical calendar of names show some deviations.

See also

Web links

Wiktionary: name day  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations


  • Jakob Torsy: The Big Name Day Calendar . 3720 names and 1560 biographies of our saints. 13th edition, Freiburg im Breisgau 1976; Reprinted in 1989.
  • Otto Wimmer: Handbook of names and saints, with a history of the Christian calendar. 3rd edition Innsbruck / Vienna / Munich 1966; from 4th edition 1982, by Otto Wimmer and Hartmann Melzer, under the title Lexicon of Names and Saints .

Individual evidence

  1. Otto Bitschnau: The life of God's saints. Einsiedeln, New-York, Cincinnati and St. Louis (Karl & Nikolaus Benziger), 2nd ed. 1883, p. 815.
  2. What is celebrated on name day? In: Church + Life. Diocese of Münster, September 11, 2018, retrieved on September 12, 2018 : "There are around 3,000 saints and blessed ones who are spread over the individual calendar days, but only around 200 are mentioned on a festival or day of remembrance in the German-speaking area (saint calendar). "