"I name this child..."
The relatively uncommon surname Christmas was originally – as you might expect – a nickname for someone born or baptised at Christmas and is mainly associated with East Anglia. However, what seasonal forenames have been given to Christmas babies over the years?
Firstly – and perhaps surprisingly – a quick check of the GRO index shows a small but significant number of children of both sexes called Christmas throughout the 19th century, gradually tailing off after the First World War. While Christmas Rose, Christmas Violet, Christmas Lily and Christmas Daisy have a certain charm, Christmas Angel and Christmas Holly Bell are more dubious, and there is little to be said in favour of Christmas Holyday, Christmas Bacon and Christmas Leviathan! In Wales I also found the variants Christmasia, Christmastina and Christmascella, which appear to be unique.
The French name for Christmas, Noël (or its feminine form Noëlle) is a traditional favourite for Christmas babies, along with the variants Nowel(l), Noeline and Noeleen, while the Latin “natale” (“birthday”) has given us Natalie, Natalia and Natasha.
Holly might sound like a fairly modern girl’s name, but until the end of the 19th century it was given to babies of both sexes, particularly to those born in the winter months. Holly Ivy reminds us of the carol, while I also found Holly Blossom, Hollyberry, Holly Branch and Holly Noel between 1870 and 1900.
The names traditionally attributed to the Three Wise Men - Caspar, Melchior and Balthasar – have never been popular outside the Germanic immigrant community, but the angel Gabriel has given his name to many children, whether born at Christmas or not.
However, my prize for seasonal Christmas names has to go to the wonderfully-named Merry Christmas Rose, born in West Ham in 1877 and understandably known simply as Rose!