Czech name days


Czech calendar dedicates each day to a  different name

By Emma Palova

As I write this, I am thinking of my own name and my daughter’s. That is in Czech language Ema, and in English Emma. The Czech calendar devotes each day to a different name. The name day is called “svatek” or jmeniny which celebrates the name of the person. According to the Czech calendar Emma’s day falls on April 8.

The name days originate in the Roman Catholic list of saints, which has been changed many times since. My mother gave me the name based on a romance novel where a gentleman writes letters to a young lady, always starting with the greeting, “Mila Emmo.” That translates as, “Dear Emma.” Mom loved that greeting almost as much as she didn’t like her own name, Eliska. So later, when she got naturalized as an American citizen, she changed her name to Ella. The different ending of the name Emmo is a trick of the Slavic language, where all nouns are declined in seven declinations depending on the proposition.

Happy name day Emma
Happy name day Emma
Czech name calendar illustrated by national artist Josef Lada.
Czech name calendar illustrated by national artist Josef Lada.

I, on the other hand, liked my name because of the stories that circulated about an old lady named Emma, who never got married. That was the gossip in the old Moravian town of Vizovice. I thought that story was way too cool to let go of it. So, at a time when the name Emma really wasn’t in fashion, because it was so old, I put it down as a chosen name before I gave birth to a girl. Surprisingly, she was born on her own name day, Ema on April 8. The result was  a double celebration. The birthdays are still bigger than the name days, but the most popular names like Joseph are celebrated by the entire nation on March 19 much like St. Pat’s here.

I have always wondered about the last day of the year being dedicated to Silvestr. And I am pretty sure nobody knew about Sylvester Stallone in those days. I gave a very modern name to my son Jake. In the late 1980s, baby boys were named either Jake or Luke. The Czech calendar captures more than 365 names throughout the year giving the calendars and cards a great variety. There are so many names that some  days have to double up reflecting both a female and a male version.

A lot of the Czech calendar name days are dedicated to royalty. My dad and my brother are named after the great Czech king, Wenceslas, which is Vaclav in Czech. But, we don’t celebrate our name days here in the USA, because we have  adopted a family policy that we will only stick with birthdays. We also do not celebrate Czech national political holidays, as that would be difficult to keep a track of.  More over, a lot of the national holidays changed after the fall of communism in 1989. November 17 has been designated as a holiday to commemorate the start of Velvet Revolution, and the fight for freedom and democracy.

We added a new big name day to our family name portfolio, and that is Josephine that falls on March 19.

Happy name day to all Emmas

Copyright (c) 2014 story and photos by Emma Palova

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One thought on “Czech name days”

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