“Birthdays are celebrated in many countries and by many peoples. The day of our birth is man’s entrance into this world of corruption and fall. The Orthodox on the other hand, give weight to our entrance into the new world of true life, that is, the Church, realised through holy Baptism. This is where we receive our Christian name, so we celebrate our nameday as our birthday, instead of our day of birth.
A Romanian Orthodox theologian and clergyman notes well:
“Romanians never celebrate their birthdays, like they do in other countries around the world. We celebrate our nameday with unprecedented joy, with music, with invited guests and with the greatest grandeur. That is, we celebrate the name we recieved at Baptism, because the day of our Baptism is our true day of birth, our real birthday.”
Every year, we expect – without any risk of being proved wrong – the descent of our protecting Saint from heaven. He never comes alone. He comes to our house. He enters under our roof, and will keep us company all day. He never comes alone. Because of the saint who comes to our home, for the whole day we have the whole of heaven under our roof. The whole heavenly hierachy is on earth, in our house! The Seraphim are in our house, and together with the angels come all the other saints, confessors, martyrs, dead relatives, neighbours. They are all there because they are invited to our nameday. The feast is a double one. Heaven celebrates the saint and earth celebrates the person who bears the saints’s name.
(From the speech of the His All-Holiness, the Ecumenical Patriarch, Bartholomew, during Vespers for St. Bartholomew at Baloukli Monastery) Free translation from the Greek – posted here