In Poland, name days are a special time for family and friends to gather - sometimes for dinner or just dessert. There is usually a small intimate gathering of family and friends. Sometimes friends and family simply stop by to wish the solenizant / solenizantka (the person celebrating his/her name day ) Wszystkiego najlepszego! (“All the best!”) and Sto lat! (A hundred years!). If gifts are given, they are usually small and symbolic. Most often, guests bring flowers (usually in odd numbers) or chocolates, whether it be for a man or a woman.
Name days are a tradition of attaching personal names to each day of the year, and celebrating the association of particular days with those for whom that day is named. It is common in many parts of Europe. The tradition originates from the Christian church calendar and the tradition to name children after saints.
The celebration of name days has been a tradition in Catholic countries since the Middle Ages. The name days originate in the list of holidays celebrated in commemoration of saints and martyrs of the Catholic Church. In Poland, name days (Polish: imieniny) are widely celebrated, and most calendars contain the names celebrated each day. Name day celebrations in Poland traditionally involve a gathering of friends and family at the celebrant's home at the dinner table, followed by drinking and socializing, similarly to birthday celebrations. The song "Sto lat" is often sung. Children, and often adults too, receive presents, just like on their birthday. Celebrating birthdays is very popular, too.
Sto lat! (Traditional Text)
Sto lat! Sto lat! Niech żyje, żyje nam.
Sto lat! Sto lat! Niech żyje, żyje nam.
Jeszcze raz! Jeszcze raz! Niech żyje, żyje nam.
Niech żyje nam.
A child in Poland is usually given one or two given names and it is illegal to officially use more than two given names. But it is customary to have 3, the last after postrzyżyny or confirmation. Parents normally choose a name or names for their child from a long list of traditional names which may be:
· a Christian name, i.e., a Biblical name or a saint's name, or
· a Slavic name of pre-Christian origin.
Names of Slavic saints, such as Wojciech (St Adalbert), Stanisław (St Stanislaus), or Kazimierz (St Casimir), belong to both groups. Additionally, a few names of Lithuanian origin, such as Olgierd (Algirdas), Witold (Vytautas) or Danuta are also quite popular in Poland.
Traditionally, the names are given at a child's baptism. Non-Christian but traditional Slavic names are usually accepted, but the priest may encourage the parents to pick at least one Christian name. In the past two Christian names were given to a child so that he or she had two patron saints instead of just one. At confirmation people usually adopt yet another (second or third) Christian name; however, it is never used outside Church documents.
In Poland people celebrate name days (imieniny) on the day of their patron saint. Today birthdays remain relatively intimate celebrations, as often only relatives and close friends know a person's date of birth. Name days, on the other hand, are often celebrated together with co-workers, etc. Information about whose name day it is, can be found in most Polish calendars, web portals, etc.
It is required by law for a given name to clearly indicate the person's sex. Almost all Polish female names end in the vowel -a, while most male names end in a consonant or a vowel other than a. There are, however, a few male names, such as Barnaba and Bonawentura, which end in -a. Maria is an exceptional name as it is a female but can sometimes be used as a male second name (never a first name).
The choice of a given name is largely influenced by fashion. Many parents may name their child after a national hero or heroine, some otherwise famous person, or a character from a book, film, or TV show. In spite of this, a great number of names used in today's Poland have been in use since the Middle Ages.
Diminutives are very popular in everyday usage, and are by no means reserved for children. The Polish language allows for a great deal of creativity in this field. Most diminutives are formed by adding a suffix. Maria, a name whose standard form was once reserved to refer to Virgin Mary has a particularly great number of possible diminutives, which include: Marysia, Maryśka, Marysieńka, Marychna, Mania, Mańka, Maniusia, Maja, Majka, Marusia, Maryla, Maryna, Marianna, Mariola, Marzena, Marlena, Marietta, Marita, Marika, Marisa. Some of those have eventually become treated as standard names of their own.
The most popular female names in Poland are Anna, Maria, and Katarzyna (Catherine). The most popular male names are Piotr (Peter), Jan (John), and Andrzej (Andrew).