What it means to say “Buon Onomastico”

Recently I was scrolling on my social media and I saw an old friend post “Buon Onomastico” to all the Michaels out there. Now being that I was born and raised in Italy, I knew what Maria on Facebook was talking about, but did everyone else on her feed understand? Probabbbly not. So lets dive into what it means when you hear someone say “Buon Onomastico”

What’s in a name….

The closest way to translate Buon Onomastico is Happy Name Day.

Italians love a reason to gather and celebrate and celebrating your Onomastico is one more way they do so. Onomastico- In Italy this means “Name Day”. Your Onomastico day is celebrated just as your birthday would with well wishes from friends and family saying “Buon Onomastico! (Happy Name Day), a cake and sometimes even presents! But why? What is it about “Name Day” that gives such importance to the day that those surrounding you wish to celebrate it?

A background of Onomastico

The celebration of ones Onomastico derives from Catholicism where there are many Holidays throughout the year that celebrate a particular Saint. If you happen to have been named after a Saint then that Holy day meant to celebrate the memory of the Saint also becomes your “Name Day”, therefore making you just that much more special for the day!

St. Michael, celebrated September 29th

According to the Italian Enthusiast; as he researched the topic with fellow Italians, they came to the conclusion that while the celebration of Onomastico is known throughout all of Italy, it is celebrated more so in Southern Italy than the North. Onomastico is also an old tradition that Nonno and Nonna would have grown up celebrating no doubt but might not be celebrated so much as the younger generations raise their children.  

An article in La gazzetta italiana declares that “many parents would name their newborn after the saint that appeared on the calendar on that exact day. For instance, if a baby boy were to be born on September 19, the day of San Gennaro (San Januarius), he will be named Gennaro. Similarly, if a baby girl happened to be born on July 26, she would be named Anna in relation to Sant’ Anna’s feast day. It is not unusual for an Italian person to celebrate both the birthday and the name day at once.”

Most Popular Names Celebrated

What are some of the most popular names celebrated today? Easy Milano lists the top three boys and girls names in 2015 and their Onomastico date.

Boys Francesco – Onomastico: 4 October; Alessandro – Onomastico: 26 August; Marco – Onomastico: 25 April.
Girls Sofia – Onomastico: 30 September; Giulia – Onomastico: 22 May; Aurora – Onomastico: 20 October.

Gifting on “Name Day”

Whilst “Name Day” derives from a religious background you will find even non- Christians might find a reason to celebrate the day. In the States, most likely you would treat it like a friend’s birthday, maybe a tier below that and send a quick text or social media post like Maria did for all the Michaels.

In Italy, you might receive a small floral arrangement/plant or a small gift. No surprise to celebrate with a cake also with your name on it and underneath the words “Buon Onomastico“.

No matter where you live, why not take the time to look up when you “Name Day” is and celebrate it. After all life is short and we all need one more reason to be celebrated!

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