A lot of people come to Greece and are surprise that Greeks don’t really celebrate birthdays but they celebrate namedays. You say, what are name days? According to the Greek Orthodox tradition, nearly every day of the year is dedicated to a Christian saint or Martyr. When someone is named after one of those saints, that day becomes their “name day” and, traditionally, is celebrated. There are around 3800 Greek first (given) names. From these 3800 names: 2800 names (750 prime names και 2085 derivatives) have known nameday; 980 names with non established and thus unknown name day. Under the 980 names would be names like Socrates, Hercules which are not saints but still use in Greece. Are still with me? Or are you reaching for your mouse?
Today, May 21st, Corfu celebrates their unification with modern Greece and was concluded in 1864 under the Treaty of London. Corfu was under British rule following the Napoleonic Wars but more people celebrate this day because of the names Konstantine and Eleni. Some of the derivatives of the names would be Kostas, Dinos, Elena, Lena and so on. If someone you know is having his or her name day, the appropriate thing to say to them is “CHRONIA POLLA”, meaning “MANY YEARS”. Many years to celebrate it or for them to live a long life.
This is not so strange as you might think since if its your nameday you will celebrate it with the whole village but if its your birthday you will only celebrate with your family and friends at least the ones that know when you were born. You would have loads of people coming to your house to wish you Chronia Polla and you would be expected to wine and dine them! They don’t even have to call you first. They just turn up and you will receive them without any reservation. Although today’s nameday is a big one as there are many Kostas and Elenis in Greece the big day for Corfu is of course December 12th which is Saint Spiridon Day! Nearly every house in Corfu will have some Spiro to celebrate.