What is Onomastico?


For many Italians, celebrating one’s onomastico is just as special as celebrating one’s birthday, and for some it is even more special.  Onomastico means “name-day” in Italian, and in Italy there is a custom where Catholics named after a saint will celebrate their onomastico on the same day as that saint’s feast day.

Saint AnthonyFor example, my first name is Anthony, and just two days ago, on June 13, I celebrated my Onomastico because on June 13, Saint Anthony’s feast-day is celebrated.  Similar to birthdays, I received messages from my Italian friends stating, “Buon Onomastico!”  It is also customary to receive small gifts on your onomastico.

As an Italian Enthusiast, I celebrated the day more for its custom in Italian culture rather than for its religious significance.  However, in preparation for this post, I did ask some Italian friends about their experiences and practices.  Generally speaking, I found the following trends:

  • Onomastico is celebrated more in southern Italy, as many northern Italians do not even consider their onomastico as having significance, religious or otherwise.
  • Onomastico is celebrated more in religious families, due to its Christian origins; and
  • Onomastico is an old tradition that was practiced with greater significance in prior generations.

Nevertheless, celebrating your onomastico is fun, as it is another Italian excuse to congregate with loved ones and drink wine, and eat cake and pastarelle.  It is also interesting to learn about the saint that shares your name.  To find your onomastico as recognized in Italy, you can click here for a list per the Roman calendar: List of Saint Days

If anyone has personal experience with onomastico customs and practices, please contribute in the comment section.



  1. Ok. I’ve been living, visiting Italy for over 30 years. I married my Italian husband 27 years ago. We’ve celebrated all his family’s saint’s days yet I never knew the name until he got a random auguri whatsapp message. I thought it was some kind of code for some secret society that I’d missed along the way…
    They are southern italIan’s and spot on in your article.
    Very important to most, even non religious Italians, albeit mostly southerners. I’d add it goes along with birthday traditions as the celebrator is the one buying drinks and pastries. Typically spending a day’s worth of wages. Many avoid going out if on a tight budget and ask only immediate family, close friends and of course God parents to come over and enjoy an at home celebration. This year my husband bought and prepared Octupus sugo since his family loves seafood. He forgot the parties and it was noticed..ice cream sufficed.

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