I is for Imieniny

Continuing the Family History Through the Alphabet Challenge…I is for Imieniny! Imieniny is the Polish word for name days. Many countries celebrate name days or feast days which were originally based on saints’ feast days in the Roman Catholic or Eastern Orthodox liturgical calendar. As a primarily Roman Catholic country, Poland enthusiastically celebrates imieniny. However, my family history research discovered something rather unique about Poland’s imieniny. Many Polish Catholics used the liturgical calendar not to celebrate a feast day after a child was named – but to actually name the child.

In several of my Polish families, every child’s name is based on a saint’s feast on or near the date of birth. At first I thought my great-grandfather, Ludwik (Louis) Pater, was named after his maternal grandfather, Ludwik Pluta. But I soon noticed a naming pattern among the Pater children – they were not being named after relatives, but after the saints on whose feast they were born. My great-grandfather was born on 24 August 1893, and his grandfather was born on 21 August 1843. The feast of St. Ludwik is 25 August!

This wasn’t just a coincidence – every single child of my great-great grandparents Józef and Antonina Pater is named after a saint’s feast near their birthday – and Józef and Antonina and their siblings are as well! Based on my research, the Pater children did not pass on this tradition when it came time to name their own children.

Not every Polish ancestor followed this tradition, but many did. I last wrote about this tradition in a post called Polish Names and Feast Days in 2008 –  the third post written for this blog. As my research continues, I’m finding more and more ancestors named after the saint’s feast near their birth.

I always thought the imieniny naming tradition was fun and it would certainly take the stress off of parents who debate over names for their child – just let the church’s calendar decide for you. Then again, there is a certain risk involved, for not every name is equally liked! Your first name is very important for your sense of identity, so I can’t help but wonder how name choices affect people. Just by the random chance of the day you were born could have christened you Adam (24 December) or Zenon (22 December), Aniela (31 May) or Zuzanna (24 May).

Of course, if you weren’t named after the saint whose feast happened to fall on your day of birth, you can always celebrate your imieniny anyway by finding the corresponding saint on the calendar. Any reason for a party (and cake) is a good reason, so take a look at the list of names and celebrate your name day!

[Written for the weekly Family History Through the Alphabet Challenge]

6 thoughts on “I is for Imieniny

  1. Pingback: Family History Through the Alphabet - I is for ... | Genealogy & History News

  2. Ooh name days. I’ve heard about them from my Finnish relatives, but I’m not sure if they are named after Saints Days or something else. I’ll have to ask them. 🙂

  3. That’s interesting! Name days in Latvia are quite different. Some days are associated with the names of saints (though Latvia is predominantly Lutheran), but each day also has a number of Latvian names (or names increasingly used by Latvians) associated with it that don’t have anything to do with saints. For example, today, July 8, happens to be my name day! It is also the name day for girls with the names Adele and Ada. I haven’t seen either of these names used for Latvian girls, but I guess some do. They aren’t very popular though, and my name, Antra, is the most popular of the names for this day.

    They’re not necessarily associated with the day of birth though. And in modern times, name days are usually spaced apart from birthdays – that way, you get two days of celebration in the year! My birthday is in March, but my name day is today. Meanwhile, my parents, who are also March babies, celebrate their name days in April and June.

  4. I never knew this! I love reading posts that I walk away from having gained new knowledge, and your post did just that. Thank you for sharing 🙂

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