Let me bring you up to speed. Holidaying in our rose-tinted youth involved heading south for weeks of glorious camping on the Isle of Wight, with part of the fun involving shameless pocket-money splurging on useless tat in souvenir shops. Being frequent-to-bicker siblings, it was of course vitally important that we made it painfully clear whose PVC coin purse was whose, so we’d always hone in on the revolving racks of name-embossed products, eagerly searching for our own.
Blessed with unusual names however (FYI we’re not Kimberly and Alixandra, just short and sweet – both of us literally – Kim and Alix), we’d spin the displays in vain, lost in a sea of Sarahs, Amys, Davids and Marks. Despite often leaving empty-handed, I’d usually have a better tat-score record, Kim being marginally more common than Alix thanks to ladies Bassinger and Wilde.
Since moving to France though, it’s been hard to ignore the hammer blow dealt to my tally by the French tradition of name days, based on the Christian calendar of saints. The old custom dictates that each day of the year is named after a saint (often the day they died), and if you share that name, you get to celebrate. Though you might have to jostle for room at the party table as some days have more than one. Too much do-gooding, obviously.
I was dismayed to find out there was no Saint Kim listed, but utterly mortified that there was a Saint Alix (January 9th). It turns out the name is not quite as un-saintly as some of my sister’s childhood antics would have you believe. Tradition used to be that children born were named after the saint on the relevant day, though this has been largely abandoned. Nowadays the (fading slightly) tradition is to give a small gift, essentially meaning you get a bonus birthday. Card companies, keen to snatch the ‘occasion’ dollar wherever they can, produce ‘Bonne Fête’ cards.
Before you start making an imaginary gift list in your head, remember how names have a tendency to waver in popularity over the years (and I should know given the sizeable damage Messrs Jong-Il, Jong-Un and Kardashian have done to our reputation in recent times, but I’m pinning my hopes on Korean TV actor ‘Kim Bum’ to claw it all back for us. Watch this space). Alix may have made the cut, but she’s joined by the likes of Barnard, Crépin, Igor, Norbert and Prudence. Good luck in finding yours.
If you happen to be in the family way, thank your lucky stars the custom isn’t as popular as it once was. You might not be obliged to go with ‘Tanquy’, but that doesn’t mean you can call it Rihanna instead. Given that my dear sister is expecting her own little bundle of joy next year, maybe it’s time to settle old debts, bust out the calendar and convince her that ‘Ignace de Loyola’ is in fact a charming name for a first-born child.
I did say there wasn’t a Saint Kim, didn’t I?
Click here for a full calendar to see if your moniker made the grade.