Almost all cultures have a name for each day. Since we assume that they serve many purposes, let’s content ourselves with one—religious. Official Catholic name days started as a rejection of ancient Roman name days, which honoured pagan deities. Sunday was dies Solis (from Sol, the personification and god of the sun, as in the sol invictus), Monday was dies Lunae (from Luna, the personification and goddess of the moon), Tuesday was dies Martis (from Mars, the god of war), Wednesday was dies Mercurii (from Mercurius, the god associated with speed and trade), Thursday was dies Iovis (from Iuppiter, god of sky and thunder), Friday was dies Veneris (from Venus, goddess of natural productivity), and Saturday was dies Saturni (from Saturnus, god of fertility and agriculture).
[Note: Sol (nom.) is declined as Solis (gen.), Solem (acc.), Sole (abl.), Soli (dat.), and Sol (voc.). Luna (nom.) is declined as Lunae (gen.), Lunam (acc.), Luna (abl.), Lunae (dat.), and Luna (voc.). Mars (nom.) is declined as Martis (gen.), Martem (acc.), Marte (abl.), Marti (dat.), and Mars (voc.). Mercurius (nom.) is declined as Mercurii (gen.), Mercurium (acc.), Mercurio (abl.), Mercurio (dat.), and Mercuri (voc.). Iuppiter (nom.) is a special case. It came from the compound vocative *Iou Pater from the Old Latin nominative *Ious. Only the nominative and vocative take the compound form; the rest takes the older form. It is thus declined as Iovis (gen.), Iovem (acc.), Iove (abl.), Iovi (dat.), and Iuppiter (voc.). Venus (nom.) is declined as Veneris (gen.), Venerem (acc.), Venere (abl.), Veneri (dat.), and Venus (voc.). Saturnus (nom.) is declined as Saturni (gen.), Saturnum (acc.), Saturno (abl.), Saturno (dat.), and Saturne (voc.).]
The Roman system simply borrowed the Greek system in a translation process known as interpretatio romana or interpretatio graeca. The original Greek name days were ἡμέρα Ἡλίου (hēméra Hēlíou), ἡμέρα Σελήνης (hēméra Selḗnēs), ἡμέρα Ἄρεως (hēméra Áreōs), ἡμέρα Ἑρμοῦ (hēméra Hermoũ), ἡμέρα Διός (hēméra Diós), ἡμέρα Ἀφροδίτης (hēméra Aphrodítēs), and ἡμέρα Κρόνου (hēméra Krónou). English name days followed this scheme and via interpretatio germanica, the Roman deities were replaced with their Germanic counterparts.
The names of the days in Ecclesiastic Latin are based on and counted from the dies Dominica. The noun dies can either be masculine or feminine, but is oftentimes treated as feminine, as in the Sequence Dies irae, where the first line is Dies irae, dies illa (The day of ire is that day), illa being the feminine of ille. In Spanish, however, día has been fixed as a masculine noun. Dies Dominica means day of the Lord, as it is on that day when Our Lord rose again from the dead.
With the dies Dominica as the reference point, Monday is feria secunda, literally, second holiday. One of the theories explaining why it was thus named assumes that the dies Dominica is the first holiday, or, more properly, first holy day, and so the subsequent days of the week are oriented towards it. The numbering continues until Friday, which is the feria sexta (sixth holiday). The seventh day is named from the Greek σάββατον (sábbaton), itself from the Hebrew שבת (shabát). The ordinals can also be taken to mean as rank or dignity, with dies Dominica occupying the highest dignity, and the other days in lesser dignities.
However, with the exception of Portuguese, name days in all Romance languages take the pagan ones. In Spanish, we have lunes, martes, miércoles, jueves, and viernes. In Italian, we have lunedì, martedì, mercoledì, giovedì, and venerdì. In French, we have lundi, mardi, mercredi, jeudi, and vendredi. In Romanian, we have luni, marţi, miercuri, joi, and vineri. In Catalan, we have dilluns, dimarts, dimecres, dijous, and divendres. Portuguese, on the other hand, has segunda-feira, terça-feira, quarta-feira, quinta-feira, and sexta-feira.
[Note: Old Portuguese followed the pagan name days, of which we have lues, martes, mércores, joves, and vernes.]
Grouping of days
A period of seven days, for example, from Sunday to Saturday, forms a week. In Latin, a week is an hebdomas, from the Greek ἑβδομάς. It is declined as hebdomadis (gen.), hebdomadem (acc.), hebdomade (abl.), hebdomadi (dat.), and hebdomas (voc.). Another form of this word, and actually the more common usage, is hebdomada, which is declined as hebdomadae (gen.), hebdomadam (acc.), hebdomada (abl.), hebdomadae (dat.), and hebdomada (voc.). Both words are feminine.
We encounter this word in liturgical books as Hebdomada Sancta, Holy Week, or, prior to the Pian reforms, Hebdomada Maior, Greater Week, in accordance with the Greek Ἁγία καὶ Μεγάλη Ἑβδομάς (Hagia kai Megale Hebdomas), Holy and Great Week. In other forms, we read in the rubrics of the word hebdomadarius in the context of the Divine Office recited or chanted in common or in choir. It is variously translated into English as hebdomadary, hebdomader, or hebdomadal. An hebdomadary is a member of cathedral chapter or convent assigned to a week to officiate in the Divine Office.
In later centuries, Latin outside the Church abandoned hebdomas in favour of septimana, the origin of the Spanish semana, the French semaine, the Italian settimana, the Portuguese semana, the Romanian săptămână, and the Catalan setmana. Septimana came from the words septem, seven, and mane, morning, declined as matutinis (gen.), matutinem (acc.), matutine (abl.), matutini (dat.), and mane (voc.); hence, septimana means a period of seven morning or seven days. It is related to the English sennight, a contraction of sevennight, referring to a week. A period of two weeks in English is fortnight, a contraction of Old English fēowertȳne and niht.
An octava or octave is a period of eight days. In some ways, it resembles the hebdomas. An octava begins and ends on the same day; that is, if the period begins with Monday, it should end on the next Monday. In the Church, an octave refers to the extension of the Office and Mass of a feast through all eight days. In our rudimentary understanding, we see this as an extenuation of joy, especially with the Easter Octave, and solemnity which we accord to a particular mystery or to a patron saint.
There were many octaves in the Church before the Pian reforms, both universal and particular, and most of them were abolished. Pope Pius XII deemed it unhealthy to repeat Offices through eight contiguous days, including the transfer of feasts which a day within an octave impedes. This particular character of octaves, especially first class octaves, has left an imprint in some languages in the Philippines.
It is a known fact that each day in the calendar has at least one saint. Just look at the Martyrologium, and you will read at least four to five saints inscribed on a particular day. An inevitable consequence to this is the probable occurrence of a feast in an octave that does not permit commemoration, requiring the feast to be impeded and transferred on the nearest available day. This often happens to the Feast of the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, when 25 March happens to be in the latter part of Lent.
In some parts of the Visayas, the transfer of a feast due to an impediment in liturgical rank is called pag-oktaba. This is usually observed in barangays whose patron saint has a feast within Holy Week. An example would be Saint Roch, whose feast falls on 5 April. His novena is still said from 27 March until 4 April, but all the revelries, all the festive preparations, all the swine and kine to be butchered, are postponed until the nearest available day. In other words, gioktaba.
A novena is a period of nine days, set aside for a particular devotion or a particular intention, wherein prayers are said in honour of a saint. This is the proper reckoning of novena in Latin. The pious exercise of reciting prayers, not the period of days, is called novendiales in Latin, which originally referred to the nine days of mourning accorded to a deceased Pontiff.
In the context of a personal devotion, the novena will be a simple period of nine days, with or without victuals on the ninth and tenth days. In the context of a patronal feast, however, the novena serves as a period of preparation for the feast. A novena begins nine days before the feast. If the feast falls on 24 June, just as the Nativity of Saint John the Baptist, the novena begins on 15 June and ends on 23 June, the eve of the feast.
Novenas are not just set aside for a patron saint. Deceased Catholics, especially in the provinces still, are still given a novena, a period of nine days wherein prayers for the soul of the departed are said, corpore presente vel absente. However, the term is more knowingly applied to the prayers than to the period of days. Somewhere in our distant past, there must have been a shift in reckoning whereby novena became more associated with the prayers than to the period of days.