American Nameday Calendar - Introduction
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Introduction

Birthdays are certainly the most favorite reason to celebrate and party in America.
But how about celebrating our first names? After all, our names are one of the most important possessions we have in life. Europeans have observed and celebrated their first names for centuries. In many European calendars each day of the year has one or more first names assigned to it. Thus all the Johns, Emilys, Marys, Michaels, etc. have one special day that is celebrated by all the namesakes in the same fashion as birthdays: Greeting cards, flowers, parties at home and office, etc. These light-hearted moments are considered welcome breaks for everyone, and are particularly loved by children who can have parties, not only on their birthdays, but on their namedays as well. Besides in calendars, each day's names in some countries are also announced in newspapers and even on TV and radio. In fact, except for some milestone birthdays such as 30th, 40th, 50th, etc., namedays in many countries are considered more important than birthdays.

As we mentioned in our Home Page, the first edition of "The American Name Day Calendar of First Names" was published in 1982 introducing this popular European custom here in the United States. The calendar contained more than 2000 first names.
Although the actual database of names with their namedays remains basically the same year after year, nameday calendars in different countries are usually revised from time to time - and the American Nameday Calendar is no exception.   And, in keeping pace with the times, about 1000 new names have been added to our calendar, hence it currently contains 3000 first names.  Of course, new names are being created by parents all the time and although many of those names are entirely new and unique, a large number of them are variations of so called "root" names.
To illustrate how the update process has worked, we show below, as an example, August 10 in both 1982 and 2010 editions. The "root" names are "Herbert" and "Lawrence".

August 1982 August 2010

 August 10 1982

In 1982, there were 10 first names; "Herbert" and 9 variant forms and derivatives of "Lawrence". Herbert's nameday is based on the birthday of Herbert Hoover (b.1874), the 31st President of the United States. We assigned Lawrence to August 10 based on the feast day of Saint Lawrence, Deacon of Pope Sixtus II, martyred in 288. He is the most famous of over 30 saint Lawrences.
 August 10 2010

There are 20 names in 2010, 16 of which are variant forms of Lawrence. Herbert has gained 3 variants forms since the first edition. By the way, Herbert was a popular name for boys in the early part of the 20th century; the 37th most popular for births in 1920's, according to the Social Security Administration's data. Undoubtedly, the fact that Herbert Hoover was the President from 1929 to 1933, was one of the reasons for the popularity of the name.

Actually, a "Name Day" was and still is in Catholic calendars around the world the feast day of the saint after whom a person is named at baptism. In early centuries, Christians began honoring martyrs (the first saints) who were slain for their faith. Each year, on the anniversary of the martyr's death, Christians celebrated the day as a "feast day", the martyr's "birthday" into heaven. It was not a day of mourning, but rather an occasion of rejoicing.  Over time, it became customary to adopt or to give saints' names to children at baptism, particularly the name of a "patron saint", a special protector and guardian in heaven who would look after the child throughout his or her life. Eventually, every Christian had a "guardian saint" who was remembered and celebrated on the feast day of the saint, and the day was also considered the "name day" of the person.

But due in part to the Reformation of the sixteenth century, the religious aspect and meaning of the "name day" celebration in Europe began to change. In 1517, Martin Luther nailed his "Ninety Five Theses" propositions on the door of All Saints Church, Wittenberg, Germany, and by doing so, he inadvertently paved the way for the religious revolution, or "Protestant Revolution" that left its permanent marks on history.
Many other Christian names that appeared in the Bible, other than saints', also began to appear in calendars. And while the names of many kings and national heroes were also being celebrated, as the time went on, ordinary people, especially in predominantly Protestant countries, began to celebrate first names by putting the emphasis on the name only. In other words, although saints' names were still in calendars and they were still remembered, in celebrating first names, saints were now considered as if they were equal namesakes with common people. That's because Protestants did not, and still do not recognize the sainthood the same way Catholic Church does; Protestant doctrine considers every Christian a saint - if he or she is a true Christian and has Faith.

The emphasis in the Catholic "Saints Name Day calendars" was and still is, of course, on the feast day of the saint. It is a nice tradition many Catholic parents still have in naming their children after a saint. However, because there are usually many saints of the same name (for example more than 60 Saint Peters), a child may have friends who, despite being his or her namesakes, could have entirely different "name days" depending on the feast day of the particular saint after whom they are named. Nevertheless, from the Catholic and the religious point of view, it is the proper way to observe "name days".   After all, it is the saint who is being commemorated in the first place.

In the American Nameday Calendar, however, each name has only one nameday. Hence, all persons with the same first name celebrate their nameday on the same day.
For instance, all the Peters in the U.S. celebrate their name every year on June 29.
Their nameday is based on the feast day of the most famous Saint Peter of them all,
the Leader of the Apostles who was also the First Pope.
Undoubtedly, most Peters who are named after a saint, are named after this Saint Peter who is also called the "Prince of the Apostles".

As we mention on our "F.A.Q." page, although we celebrate our own first names, most of our namedays are actually based partly on the birthdays of prominent Americans who have made lasting contributions in their own fields, and, given the strong influence the religion has always had on the lives of most Americans, partly on the names of many saints and other eminent Christians.
And what makes the calendar really unique, is that in the 2004-2015 editions we have also shown the names and dates of those notables.   August 10, shown earlier, is a good example of such namedays (Herbert and Lawrence).

Let's take a brief look at some other namedays in calendar.

Paul's nameday on January 1, is based on the birthday of Paul Revere, the folk hero of the American Revolution. He made history in 1775 with his famous horseback ride through the Lexington countryside warning the people: "The British are coming!"

John, the all time favorite, is a very good example of a name with a religious background. John's nameday on June 24th is one of the oldest and most internationally celebrated namedays in the world; it is based on the birthday of Saint John The Baptist.

Noah's nameday, on the other hand, is "literally" American nameday. We assigned it to October 16 in honor of the birthday of Noah Webster who wrote the first American dictionary and Americanized the English language. For example, he changed the spellings of such English words as "colour" and "honour" to "color" and "honor". As you probably know, it took him over 27 years to write the dictionary. The book was finally ready in 1828.

Eugene's and its short form Gene's nameday on August 23 was among the very first namedays we assigned to the 1982 calendar.   When we researched the day for proper names, we discovered that American actor and dancer Gene Kelly had been born on that day in 1912 and that August 23 was also the feast day of Saint Eugene, who lived in the 6th and 7th centuries. We were unable to determine whether Gene Kelly (born as "Eugene Curran Kelly") had been named after St. Eugene. We believe he was because Gene Kelly’s parents were Irish Roman Catholic immigrants to the United States and Saint Eugene was the first bishop of Ardstraw, Ireland (died c.618). In any event, the day is a very good example of those namedays that have both religious background and, at the same time, conform to the American history.

Here's an example of a memorable event in the U.S. history that has become basis for a nameday. On October 14, 1947, Air Force Captain (Retired Air Force Brigadier General today) Charles ("Chuck") Yeager piloted the Bell X-1 airplane "Glamorous Glennis" to a speed of over 700 miles per hour, becoming the first person in history to fly faster than the speed of sound. Because of this historic flight, we made October 14th the nameday of "Glennis".   "But where does the name 'Glamorous Glennis' come from?" - someone may ask.  Well, it was a common tradition among World War II fighter pilots to name their airplanes after their wives...and yes, General Yeager had named the plane after his wife, Glennis.

All in all, many of our namedays in the American Nameday Calendar have also become, in a way, instant reminders of not only many prominent Americans and eminent Christians, but also some memorable moments and events in the history of our nation.
And the whole idea behind showing the names and dates of these eminent people is that when we celebrate first names, at the same time we may or may not, depending on each person's personal views and beliefs, also remember and honor the "notable namesake" on whom one's nameday is originally based.
However, if you prefer not to have names and dates of these notables shown in the calendar, and like to view and download pages of the "conventional" version of the calendar instead, you can do so from the 2015 Edition page.

There is no other country quite like America in the world, but there is a little bit of every country of the world in America, and it certainly reflects on our first names. Therefore, it is no wonder why many parents refer to various baby name books to find names matching their ancestral and ethnic heritage.  In any case, because our first names are precious and important to us, we can really be proud of them by celebrating our namedays once a year in the same fashion we celebrate our birthdays.



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