We all have names, and they are a gift to us by our family members - or maybe by someone else - from the time that we born. All the names have a story behind. Some of them have been given to a baby, directly from grandfather or grandmother, in the memory of an ancestor or in the memory of a hero. And some names have been given to a baby to show how unique, special and important it is. Here in this article we would like to share with you some of the names in our family with their stories and remember the people.

         We have many different names in our family. Hurmuzios, Ashen, Stavros, Theodora, Sofia, Dimitri, Kiryaki, Vincentzo, Giuseppina, Aspasia, Maria-Antoinette….etc. In general, the naming in our family is according to in the memory of an ancestor. If the tradition in family is to name the child directly with the name of grandfather or grandmother, then it also have some rules. For example; think a man who has two sons, and both his sons have children in different times. The first born grand-son can be named with the name of his grandfather. But what about the second child? This second child can be named with the name of his maternal grandfather. The same rule for daughters as well but this time with grandmother names. But what if this name was also taken by another grandchild. Ok, it’s not a big problem it will have a name anyhow.

Alexander The Great - Agios Alexandros - Aleksan Mıgırdician - Aleko Vafiadis

         The first known name in Vafiadis ancestors is Ioannis. Ioannis Vafiadis was the father of Stavros Vafiadis. Stavros Vafiadis had nine children but till now we only know five of them : Hurmuzios, Minas, Yorgos, Koco, Alexandra. Maybe the name of one of the nine siblings was Ioannis. Our grandfather Hurmuzios had one son only and his name was Aleko. Well, how they named him as Aleko? The story is different in this point. The wife of Hurmuzios, Ashen, had a brother named Aleksan. Aleksan was born in 1898. He was an accountant in famous Brasserie Bomonti. Unfortunately Aleksan died very young, in 1928. This was too sad for family, and in the memory of Aleksan, Ashen wanted to name his son with his name. But Aleksan was an Armenian name, and it was not possible. So they name their son as Aleko, with the Greek version of Aleksan. Aleko is a shortening of Alexandros. It’s not clear why they give this name to Aleksan. Because of Alexander the Great or Saint Alexandros, who knows. But we are sure that, Aleko has been baptized with the name of Saint Alexandros. His name day is 30th August.

         As we said ‘name day’, let’s describe this celebration. Wikipedia says that ‘A name day is a tradition in some countries in Europe, Latin America, and Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox countries in general. It consists of celebrating a day of the year that is associated with one's given name. The celebration is similar to a birthday. Most of the Greek Orthodoxes named after a saint. Even the name has an ancient origin, the church baptize with the name of the saint. For example, you would like to name your child ‘Leonidas’, with the name of famous Spartan King. But the church gives the name with the name of Saint Leonidas and you celebrate the name day in 16th April, the feast day of this saint. A common question is, what if there is no saint with your name? 26th June is the day for those people, Agion Panton, which means ‘All Saints Day’.

The Elevation of Holy Cross - Stavros Vafiadis ( The Great Grandfather) - Stavros Vafiadis

         Let’s continue with another name in our family : Stavros. Stavros Vafiadis is one of the grand ancestors who came from Chios to Istanbul and started the journey of our family in Istanbul which is over 100 years. ‘Stavros’ means ‘The Christian Cross’ and it’s a popular Greek name. It doesn’t have an ancient origin as a name as it has been started to given after Christianity. The name of Stavros Vafiadis, has been given to Aleko’s son in 1957. The name day is 14th September and it has been celebrated because of the Elevation of Holy Cross. According to belief on this day in 325 AD, Saint Helen set out from Constantinople on an expedition to Jerusalem to retrieve the original Cross of Jesus Christ, and she was successful.

The Baptise Ceremony of Stavros Vafiadis - 1957 Prinkipo ISTANBUL

         Here you see a photograph from the baptism ceremony of Stavros Vafiadis. Names are given in the family during the baptism ceremony together with a sponsor (god-father/mother). To be a sponsor is not so easy if you really fulfill your duties which starts from the baptize until the baby becomes an adult. It’s also very important to offer someone to be the sponsor of his child or to ask someone if he/she would like to be the sponsor of your child. This offer shows to other person how special he/she is for you and it’s a proud offer. According to belief the sponsor is the third important person after mother and father, as he/she gives you the name and opens the path of a spiritual life. The baby is nameless until the baptism ceremony.  During the baptism ceremony, the priest listens to sponsor and asks him the name of the baby. Of course, the sponsor has been informed before with the name by family members, but he/she has the right to tell something different.

Agios Theodoros - Theodoros Akasi - Theodora Akasi - Theodora Koulurgioti

         Now we continue with a name from Koulurgioti family, with Theodora Koulurgioti. Theodora was the second daughter of Koulurgioti family, that’s why she was named with the name of her maternal grandmother, Theodora Akasi. Theodora means ‘the gift of the God’ as there are two words in one name :  θεος (theos) "god" and δωρον (doron) "gift". Well, from whom Theodora Akasi got her name? You may think from her grandmother, but not. Theodoros Akasi was the uncle of Theodora and he was living in Greece. When Greco-Turkish War started, he has been called by Greek Army and he died in Greco-Turkish War. His name was given to his nephew, Theodora Akasi, for his memory. The name day is quite complicated and it changes according to Easter, but always between February and March.

Demeter - Agios Dimitrios - Dimitrios Koulurgioti - Dimitri Vafiadis

         And what about the name of Dimitri Vafiadis? His name comes directly from the father of Theodora, Dimitrios Koulurgioti.  If he was born before his cousin, his name would be Aleko. But with a few months, he took his name from the father of Theodora. Dimitri is an ancient name, and it derives from the Greek Goddess of Agriculture, Demeter or as Greeks called Dimitra. The male form of this name is Dimitri. But, he baptized with the name of Saint Demetrius of Thessaloniki who was an important Saint in Christianity. The name day is 26th October.

         Greek names have abbreviations that family members and close friends call our names with it. For example, Stavros is called as Ruli, Theodora as Dora, and Dimitri as Aki. For  Theodora it’s understandable, but what about the rest. When people hear these abbreviations, they are surprised that they cannot make a connection with the name. Let us explain... Those abbreviations are actually addings to names to show your love and also somehow it’s an identification. As we have the names of our ancestors, we identify the names to show whom we are talking about. So we mention, Stavros the Child, Dimitri the Grandfather…etc. In Greek we don’t use the words as ‘The Child’ and inspite of this we have adds on our names. Stavrouli means, Stavros the Child, the small one. Dimitraki means Dimitri the Child. But it’s too long to spell and we use the abbreviatons as Ruli, Aki…In family even you are old, your family will call you with those abbreviations. But as told before it’s not only for identification, it’s a way to show your love.

         Finally, as we've talked about names, name days and baptism we would like to share with you a video that prepared with old photos from baptism ceremonies of our family and a short video from 1985.

Written by : 2mi3, November 2019

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