This blatant discrimination has gone on long enough. I want a name day too. It’s not fair (stamps feet and tosses teddy from the pram). Polish people have birthdays and name days. On both occasions there is the potential to receive presents and compliments. For thirty something years now there has only been one opportunity each year to celebrate my existence instead of two. That’s thirty something occasions on which people could have given me stuff and felt compelled to be nice to me.
Just one of many presents that could have been mine
Polish people will tell you that they only celebrate their birthday or their name day, not both. This is a lie. The older generation tends to celebrate their name day and the younger generation their birthday. If you’re older this means you get presents and stuff from people your age on your name day and other stuff from people younger than you on your birthday. If you’re younger it’s the other way round. Either way it adds up to flagrant cheating.
Step 1: Find your Polish name
If you’re unfortunate enough not to have been born Polish you probably haven’t got a Polish name. Fortunately, if you’re from an historically christian country, you more than likely have a name that has a Polish version. You can have you name converted to a Polish one for a small fee at any gathering of Polish people, just tell them your name, buy them a beer each, and wait for the inevitable. It’s one of the top three guaranteed conversations between Poles and non-Poles.
My name, Jamie, turns out to be a little bit tricky, but not overwhelmingly so. ‘Jamie’ is, historically, a diminutive of ‘James,’ which turns out to be ‘Jakub’ in Polish. This is slightly confusing because in the English version of the bible there is a ‘James’ as well as a ‘Jacob’ – the first being an apostle and the second a ladder specialist.
The unforgettable 1950s Doo-wop and giant-forehead
group that was The Jamies
Step 2: Choose a day
Look at any Polish calendar worth its salt and you will see a list of names for each day. These are the name days celebrated on that date. In the past you got one of the names associated with the day of your birth, so your name day and birthday were the same. Today parents tend to choose a name they like rather than being dictated to by the calendar. Popular names often have several name days associated with them. There are, for example, eighteen days in the year associated with the name ‘Paweł’ (‘Paul’). In this case you just choose the first day corresponding to your name after your birthday.
Names that were historically less common usually only have one day associated with them. This is why there are five name days for ‘Adolf,’ a less than popular name these days, and only one for ‘Kacper,’ (‘Casper’) which seems to be this year’s favorite.
Kacper the friendly non-fascist dictator
In my case I have an embarrassment of choice. There are 12 possible ‘Jakub’ name days ranging from February 5th through to November 28th. For the next three years I intend to celebrate all of them to make up for lost time. You may use this helpful name day resource to establish these dates and then heap adulation and gifts upon me accordingly. After this three-year name-day binge I intend to settle on August 6th, not because it is closest to my birthday but because my birthday is far too close to Christmas and I fancy the idea of a second party in the summer instead.
Step 3: Persuasion
Not all Polish people will believe that you have officially adopted a name day. This can be detrimental to the number of presents received and drinks bought in your favor and needs to be firmly stamped on. I suggest the following strategies:
1. Tell them the Queen of England has two birthdays, one factual and the other ceremonial, and that this is also common among her subjects. If you are not a subject of QEII you’ll have to think of something else. Don’t you have a President’s Day or something?
2. Pretend you have applied to become a Polish citizen and this is one of the requirement. It’s just crazy enough to work.
3. Complain how inconvenient your name day is because it coincides with Christmas, New Years, Corpus Christi or your annual appointment with the chiropodist.
4. In conversations with Polish people always translate the names of your nearest and dearest into their Polish versions and pretend to suddenly remember their name day is coming up soon.