Written by: Andrew Lisa
Stacker compiled a list of 50 baby names with holiday meanings.
Some of the most popular baby names in America pay homage to the holidays. Parents give their children names that either directly or indirectly refer to Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, and any number of other major celebrations.
Stacker compiled a list of 50 baby names with holiday meanings. Whether it’s out of reverence for religious faith or a tribute to a favorite secularized holiday tradition, holiday-themed baby names are more common than most people might realize. Some are obvious, others obscure. Some are intentional, while others are chosen simply because the parents like the name. All, however, are part of a long tradition of giving children names infused with holiday symbolism.
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It’s impossible to discuss holiday-themed names without mentioning Jesus, a name standing as a tribute to Jesus Christ and, by extension, the entire Christmas holiday. At the name’s peak of popularity in the early 2000s, there were more than 3 million Americans named Jesus.
Although it could be short for Caroline or other cognates, Carol can also serve as a standalone name meaning “joyous song” that has become synonymous with cheery groups of holiday serenaders. There’s also Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol,” one of the most famous holiday tales ever written.
The first English baby born in the Americas arrived on Aug. 18, 1587, and she was named Virginia. Long associated with virginity—the Southern state is named after the Virgin Queen—Virginia also harkens to the Virgin Mary, the biblical mother of Jesus. The famous 1897 New York Sun editorial “Yes, Virginia, There is a Santa Claus” remains one of the most widely published holiday sentiments.
The name Holly comes from the evergreen tree with stiff, pointy leaves and trademark red berries. “Have a Holly Jolly Christmas” by Burl Ives is one of the most famous Christmas songs in the U.S.
“Joy to the World” is among the most familiar Christmas carols ever written, and Christmastime is often referred to simply as “the season of joy.” Taken from the Middle English and French word joie, the name Joy means “delight” or “great pleasure.”
Noel, which has several spelling variations and dates back to the Middle Ages, is unisex, but far more commonly used as a boy name. The word “noel” has been traced to Christmas songs as far back as the 15th century.
Yule is defined as “the feast of the nativity of Jesus Christ.” The moniker has traditionally been given to babies born on or around Christmas.
Although it’s still common for people in England to say “happy Christmas,” Americans started swapping “happy” for “merry” around the time of Charles Dickens. No other significant holiday is associated with the salutation—New Year’s, Thanksgiving, Easter, St. Patrick’s Day, Valentine’s Day, and all the rest are still prefaced with “happy.” The name Merry peaked in popularity during the 1950s.
A variation of the German name Klaus, Claus is a reduction of Nikolaus. It’s also, of course, the last name of Father Christmas himself.
The Slavic name Bell was wildly popular at the turn of the 20th century and has long been associated with the theme of Christmas. Bells traditionally ring during the Roman Catholic tradition of midnight mass and the song “Jingle Bells” is synonymous with the holiday.
The German-derived name Rudolph never had any particular connection to Christmas until 1939. That year, a department store advertising copywriter named Robert May came up with the tale of “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” while looking out through thick fog over Lake Michigan. It would go onto become one of the most beloved and familiar tales in Christmas history.
The name Christmas has a holiday theme for obvious reasons. In the modern era, the name peaked in popularity for girls around 1985.
Also spelled “Leor” and “Leeor,” this name comes from a Hebrew word meaning “my light.” The name is common for Jewish babies born during or around Hanukkah, the Festival of Lights.
Boys born around the time of Shavuot, which is held 50 days after Passover, might be given the name Matan. The name means “the time of giving” or “the time of the giving of the Torah.”
The name Ilan is more popular now than any time since at least the mid-1960s. The name means “tree,” which is, of course, closely associated with Christmas. Jewish traditions also incorporate the tree, which has long been a symbol of life, growth, strength, and reproduction.
Completely unrelated to the Japanese automaker, the name Nissan honors the month of Passover’s celebration. The origin of the traditional boy’s name is the Hebrew word for “miracle.”
Meira is the feminine variation of the name Meir and translates into “one who illuminates.” Because of the holiday’s strong association with light and candles, the name is often given to babies born during Hanukkah.
Although it has dwindled dramatically in popularity since its peak at the start of the 20th century, Joseph is one of the 50 most common boy names in America in 2021. The Hebrew name Joseph has special holiday significance for Jews and Christians, as the namesake is the son of Jacob, husband of Mary, and father of Jesus.
Like Joseph, the name Mary has plummeted in popularity since its peak in 1880 when it was given to nearly 78,000 babies per million. Even still, it’s among the top 200 most popular girl baby names in 2021. This Anglicized version of Maria derives from the Hebrew word “Miryam” and, while hotly debated, probably means something along the lines of “sea of bitterness or sorrow.”
A key player in the biblical story on which traditional Christmas celebrations are based, the name Emmanuel foretells the coming of the Messiah in the Old Testament and is another name for Jesus Christ in the New Testament. Needless to say, Emmanuel remains a popular Christmas-themed name.
Casper, Balthasar, and Melchior are known as the Three Wise Men who followed the guiding star to Bethlehem to visit the newborn Jesus. Casper has Persian origins and has trended in and out of baby names throughout the years.
Balthasar is also rooted in the story of the Three Wise Men who came to adore Jesus when he was born. It’s common to see Balthasar near Jesus, Mary, and Joseph in traditional front yard Christmas Nativity scenes.
A true Christmastime name if there ever was one, Gabriel is the angel who, in the story of the Bible, tells Mary she’s been chosen to carry Jesus Christ. The name took off in the mid-1970s and then enjoyed a second spike in popularity starting around 1990.
Although it’s declined since its height of popularity at the turn of the 21st century, Nicholas is one of the 200 most common baby boy names in America in 2021. The origin of the story of Santa Claus—the familiar, portly, jolly deliverer of presents—traces its roots to the Christian Saint Nicholas.
Alva, the middle name of famed inventor Thomas Edison, keeps the same spirit as Avery in terms of holiday themes. The Norse name Alva, which can be given to both boys and girls, means elf—a female elf, to be exact.
The name Kwanza has African origins, just like the holiday it honors. Translated literally, it means “birth” or “beginning.”
With Latin roots that translate to “glory,” the name Gloria has a special Christmas meaning. According to the Bible, a choir of angels sang, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests,” to the shepherds on the night Jesus was born.
From about 1920 to the early 2000s, the name Snow held steady in popularity. Then, around 2010, the name soared, with the rate of babies named Snow booming about eightfold.
Virtually every major world religion elevates the concept of charity as a central tenant of the faith. Jews, Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, and Hindus incorporate charity into their major holidays. The name Charity is on the decline after peaking in popularity in the mid-1970s.
Angel, which means “messenger of God,” is a common baby name for both boys and girls. The winged heavenly creatures are a familiar part of holiday decor and have been a central theme of Christmas since the holiday began.
In the Bible, the word “grace” is mentioned multiple times. The name was popularized by the likes of Grace Kelly, Grace Slick, and Grace Jones. In 2021, Grace was the 49th most popular girl’s name in the U.S.
In 1985’s “Santa Claus: The Movie,” Mrs. Claus’ first name was revealed to be Anya. The name is a variation of Anna, meaning “gracious,” and has Russian roots.
Across all different cultures throughout the entire world, candy is now—and has always been—a central part of holiday festivities. The name Candy, which has several spelling variations, peaked in popularity in the 1970s.
The name Christina is derived from the Ecclesiastical Latin word “Christianus,” which means “follower of Christ,” which, of course, Christmas is all about. The name soared in popularity in the 1980s.
The name December, which means “10th month,” is gender-neutral. December is, of course, the month of Christmas, all or part of Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, and New Year’s Eve.
A common and festive name for Muslim babies, Salam is an Arabic word that means “peace.” Like their Jewish and Christian counterparts, Muslims observe several major holidays that celebrate and promote the ideal of peace on Earth.
A common girl’s name in Arab, African, and Muslim cultures, Najma is a Swahili word that means “star.” As with Christian and Jewish traditions, the star holds special symbolism in Islam and is featured prominently in holiday festivities. In fact, the star and crescent moon make up the universal symbol of Islam.
The common Arabic boy’s name Tahir translates to “virtuous, pure, chaste.” Chastity is considered a virtue in several world religions, including Islam. The concept plays heavily in many faiths and their associated holidays.
Sadaqah has special significance in Islam. Translated literally to “a beautiful loan,” it represents an act of charitable giving that isn’t obligatory but done out of compassion—even a friendly smile counts. Sadaqah is associated with Muslim holidays, as well as events like births, weddings, and times of mourning.
The Arabic girl’s name Rahma translates to “mercy, grace, and compassion.” Among the most important Muslim holidays is Ramadan, the celebration from which the name is derived. Rahma appears roughly 80 times in the Muslim holy book.
The name Noor comes from the Arabic word for “light,” which features heavily in Muslim holidays, just as it does in Jewish and Christian celebrations. The lamp, in fact, is a special symbol of Islam and is present in many holiday themes, as light is a symbol of divine creation.
Eve is a Hebrew-origin name that means “life,” which is a central concept of major holidays for most faiths. It also figures prominently in Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve.
The name Faith soared in popularity starting around 1990 and is among the 150 most common baby girl names in America in 2021. Since many holidays have religious origins, few names are more significant, as believers are often called “people of faith.”
Hope for redemption, hope for peace on Earth, and hope for salvation are common themes of major holidays across many cultures and faiths. The name Hope peaked in popularity at the turn of the 21st century.
A variation of the Anglicized name Natalie, Natalia is in the top 100 most popular baby girl names in America in 2021. It means literally “born on Christmas.”
The name Nora is often used as a shortened form of Eleanora, a Greek name that means “light.” It’s among the 30 most popular baby girl names in America in 2021.
Stella is a Greek name that means “star.” From the Star of Bethlehem to the Star of David to the star and crescent symbol of Islam, distant suns are common themes in holidays celebrated by all major world religions.
While many important holidays take place in the spring and fall, winter is commonly referred to as the holiday season. The name Winter soared in popularity starting in the 2010s and remains one of the 300 most common baby names for girls in 2021.