We all know that Italy is a country where family reunions and feasts take a very important part of their lives. Besides their birthdays, they also celebrate their onomastico.

In many Catholic countries “onomastico” refers to celebrating someone’s name day happening on the same day with the Catholic saint. Each Italian family has a calendar hanging on the wall with a list of all saints’ names and the exact days of their celebration.

What Is Onomastico?

Nowadays, many Italians celebrate their “name-day” or as they call it “onomastico”. This term originated from the Greek verb “onomazein”, which means “to call by name”. This word has a strong religious background and is a common custom in many catholic countries.

When a newborn child comes to the world they usually give him/her a saint’s name. Every year they celebrate its name day. For example, if a baby girl comes to the world on the 30th of September, they would name it Sofia as an honor to the saint. The girl’s onomastico day and birthday would be on this date. 

Calendar with information of Catholic Saints to celebrate Onomastico - The Proud Italian

This tradition originates from Medieval times when name day was more important than the birthday. Some people think that it’s only a pagan tradition.

We have to point out that most people from central and southern Italy are still nurturing this custom, by naming their child after the saint’s name. 

You have to know that not every person celebrates its name day, but only those carrying the names of the most recognized saints. Italians even know by heart the name days without consulting the calendar. People say that they care more about their name days than birthdays.

How Do You Celebrate Onomastico?

Generally speaking, Italians celebrate onomastico the same way as they celebrate their birthdays – homemade parties, with family members and some friends, pasta and pizza on the table, some sweets and drinks to celebrate.

Sometimes food varies depending on the region. Yet, as “All Saints’ Day”  is celebrated in autumn, there are several seasonal delights such as truffles, pumpkin risottos, and roasted chestnuts.

Even people whose name days are not on the same days as their birthdays, they celebrate it like it’s their second birthday. 

Accompanied with the wishes of “Buon Onomastico” meaning (Happy Name Day) or “Auguri” meaning (Well Wishes), a small present or a bunch of flowers are the gifts that people usually give to the host of the party.

Family celebrating name day - The Proud Italian

The most common Italian names for males are Marco, Giuseppe, Roberto, Cristiano, Flavio, Stefano, Angelo, Francesco, Mario, Luigi.

For females are Sofia, Stella, Anna, Maria, Laura, Aurora, Giulia, Rosa, Gianna, Giuseppina, Giovanna.

As an example, on the 24th of June your relatives, friends, or coworkers are sending you lots of wishes for your name day if you are carrying the name of Giovanna, Giovanni and other nicknames on the annual celebration of San Giovanni Batistta or (San John the Baptist).

On the 13th of June, people whose names are Tony, Antonio, Antonia, Antonietta any many others, are celebrating their name day. Giving honor to San Antonio di Padova (San Anthony of Padua).

It’s interesting to learn about the meaning of your names and the saints that you are sharing the same names.

In Italy, there are many religious holidays celebrating saints, depending on which part of the country you are living in. They are organizing some events that can include parades and fireworks. 

Baby dressed up to get baptized, common Italian names by saints - The Proud Italian

Patron Saint

Every town in Italy has a patron saint. It’s the city’s protector and the reason why the residents feel more secure. They usually have traditional festivals where people gather in the center of the city to celebrate their saints. 

Many businesses, especially the public ones, are not working on this day. A mass of people is participating in the show. If you find yourself there, during the celebration of the city’s saint, you will have a lot of fun.

If you don’t know when is your name day, you can find out here. You can start celebrating and have fun on your name day.

Saint Peter celebration's fireworks - The Proud Italian

Takeaway

Onomastico may not be a tradition of celebrating your name day across all the regions of Italy. But for those regions where people do it, it symbolizes a very special day of the year.

Receiving warm wishes from the closest people and getting tiny presents means a lot to the Italians that care about their name days. It also represents another motive throughout the year, to gather your relatives and friends and celebrate another special day.