Each year on August 15th, Greeks around the world celebrate “Summer Easter,” as the Dormition of the Virgin Mary is called in Greek popular tradition. The nation is also ready to honor those bearing Greece’s most popular female name, Maria.
August 15th is an annual bank holiday not only in Greece but in most Catholic and Orthodox Christian countries around the world.
Catholics celebrate the Assumption of the Virgin Mary into Heaven on this day while the Orthodox celebrate what is called Her “Dormition,” since the Orthodox Church does not teach that Her body ascended into the heavens.
In both cases, however, the Virgin Mary, the Mother of Jesus, is the figure that is at the center of celebrations in August across the Christian world.
Dormition of Virgin Mary on August 15th Celebrated Across Greece
Thus, in countries with the tradition of celebrating saints’ names, such as in Greece, Her name is also honored and celebrated on this special feast day.
However, the name “Mary” itself is not the original name by which the Mother of Jesus was known. Actually, this is a later, Latinized version of the older name “Maria.”
This name was first recorded as such in the New Testament of the Christian Bible.
Since Greek was the original language in which the New Testament was written, Maria (Μαρία) or Mariam (Μαριάμ) were the forms which were commonly used across the Christian world in the first few centuries after Christ before its Latin variation became well-known.
According to experts, its origins are believed to stem from the Aramaic name ”Maryam,” which was a derivation of the Hebrew name ”Miriam.”
There is no clear evidence of what the name Miriam actually meant in Hebrew, but the most popular belief is that it was a term meaning “sea of bitterness” or “sea of sorrow.”
This could actually be quite appropriate considering what Christians believed -and still believe- about the Virgin Mary’s deep sorrow in having witnessed the crucifixion of her son, Jesus.
The name Maria began growing in popularity in the Greek world very quickly after the first Greeks embraced Christianity almost 2,000 years ago, and it is not difficult to understand the reasons why.
Later on in recorded history, Mary became the second most prominent figure in the new religion after Jesus Christ himself.
The loving, maternal figure of the Parthenos Maria (The Virgin Mary), along with the deep admiration the first Christian Greeks displayed for Her, prompted many people to begin baptizing their daughters with this name.
Maria, the Most Popular Female Name in Greece
After centuries of uninterrupted presence in Greek society, the name Maria is not only popular in Greece today, but it is actually still, by far, the most popular female name in the country.
According to a recent announcement by Greece’s Statistics Service ELSTAT, Maria remains the most popular female name in Greece today, with 8.3 percent of the total female population in Greece bearing the name of Christ’s beloved mother.
This means that approximately one in twelve Greek women is named Maria, and while many celebrate their name day on August 15th, others do not. The Virgin Mary is honored several times throughout the year in the Greek Orthodox calendar. Other days on which the Virgin Mary is honored include March 25th, the Annunciation of the Holy Mary; November 21st, the Presentation of Mary; and September 8th, the Nativity of Mary among other days.
Aside from Maria, other names related to the Virgin Mary are also celebrated on August 15th. These names include Marios, Panagiotis, Panagiota, Despoina, Parthena and many more. This is why the Dormition of the Virgin Mary is such a significant religious celebration but also a joyous holiday for most Greek families.
Hence, whether you celebrate your name day today or not, we wish you a very happy August 15th!