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Name Day Celebrations

One of the beauties about spending time in Bulgaria is that you get to make friends with the locals and share in their many name day celebrations. Many celebrations focus around people celebrating their name day.


A name day celebrationis a bit like celebrating your birthday, except name days were around long before birthdays were celebrated. Name days are listed in the liturgical calendar each year and those whose names are the same as a saint celebrate on the saint’s day. There are two versions of the calendar, the Gregorian and the Julian calendar and this has lead to some people having two different days for their name.


Most name days are scheduled for the winter months with one of the most popular occurring on December 6th - St Nicholas’ Day known as Nikulden. On this day anyone with a name related to Nicholas e.g. Nikolina, Nicolay, Nikola or Nikoleta arranges a feast for all of their friends and family.

There are many traditions associated with some of the name days. On St John’s Day on January 7th, Priests throw crosses into nearby lakes and rivers to remember Christ’s baptism by John the Baptist. Many of the men who celebrate their name day on this day, namely Ivan, , Yoan, Yovko, Zhan hurl themselves naked into ice cold waters whilst the girls, Ivanka, Vanya and Zhana watch from the banks.

Valentine’s Day in the West is slowly gaining ground in Bulgaria, but the real celebration on this day is Trifon Zarezan, a celebration to the patron saint of wine makers. Some wineries cut their vines on this day and everyone celebrates by drinking themselves senseless!

St Theodore’s Day on March 15th is associated with horses and is often known in Bulgarian as Konski Velikden or Horse Easter. Many villages across the country host competitions where keen young riders race their horses through the streets. Many of them are bareback and some horses compete in pulling huge logs with the horse that performs in the fastest time or over the furthest distance being the winner.

By far the most common name in Bulgaria and consequently the most popular name day has to be George’s Day, which is celebrated on May 6th. St George is the patron saint of shepherds, farm animals and strangely enough the army. On this day lambs and goats are slaughtered in ritual celebrations and eaten at the name day feast.

If you attend someone’s name day celebration then be sure to great them with the words, “Da ti e zhivo i zdravo imeto,” which means, “Let your name live on.”

If you want to find out your name day you can either go to a church to buy the name day calendar known as the tsurkonovo kalendarche to find out when you should be celebrating your special day. Once you have the date let everyone know and invite them over for a huge party, but make sure you have plenty of food and drink, because on a name day in Bulgaria, people do not need an invitation to celebrate.


There may be many things that the Bulgarians do not do as well as other nations – electrics, waste management and customer service to name a few, but Bulgaria has so much to offer in the way of a quality lifestyle that these issues pale into insignificance and there’s one thing that the Bulgarians do better than any nation on earth – they know how to party and name day celebrations are another excuse!