When I first came here women did not celebrate their name days but for men it was a huge get-together of friends, neighbours and relatives. You weren't invited, you just turned up with a present of sticky cakes or a bottle of ouzo, or whisky if you wanted to make a statement, to honour the celebrant. The house was open for everyone.
The women of the house honoured their men (husband or male child) by kneading great loaves of bread , roasting trays of pork or lamb, peeling mountains of potatoes to cook in lemon juice and spent the day bringing out trays of glasses with sticky liqueurs for the women, topping up jugs of wine for the men, laying clean plates and collecting dirty glasses, washing up and even joyfully dancing. The plates though were broken for the men's dance. They jump and twist, maybe balancing a glass of wine on their heads, sway to the music while friends encourage them with a steady clap of their hands.
Celebrations went on all night and many guests went from house to house. A popular name like Konstantinos or Yiannis (every house has a Yianni) meant you could be busy going from one neighbourhood to another, swigging back litres of wine in every house you visited and eating as much as you could of each feast to show your appreciation and respect for the man whose house you had entered.
The celebration would have started the night before after the church service on the eve of the fiesta. Home made cakes and sweets are offered to everyone after the service. Housewives would have been busy for days making trays of baclava, galaktobouriko, amigthalota, fanouropita for the church and the house.
On the morning of the fiesta it was time for church again and often the men would have helped to carry trays of meat and potatoes and big plastic containers of wine to be consumed outside the church.
They still do this at some of the smaller churches out in the villages where everyone attends the church service and then stays for a glass of wine and some roast pork.
On important fiestas loud music would be playing all over the neighbourhood and after the first few litres there was sure to be a line of dancers, especially the name-day-boy who would be the centre of the line.
Churches are dedicated to saints and these are opened for a celebratory service no matter how small they are. Some are only used on their fiesta day. Some areas are associated with certain names and you'll find the majority of the people in a village or island will have the same first name. Gerasimos is asscoiated with the island of Cephalonia, Spiros with the island of Corfu.
Nowadays when times are tight name days tend to be small family affairs but still with the dancing, feasting and jolliness of old and women celebrate their name days just as much as the men.
In some villages there will be a local celebration with dancing and maybe food and drink in the main square. Here a small church across the waters dedicated to the Virgin Mary has a huge fiesta on 3rd june. We all go across to light a candle and maybe listen to some of the service, standing outside. The big draw is the open air market, with stalls selling everything from honeyed loukoumathes to pillows and underwear, which fills up both sides of the road for over a kilometer.