By Linda Rosenkrantz
When you’re looking for a name for a Christmastime babe, you can go the obvious route with Noel and Noelle, Mary or Merry, or you could consider a more subtle reference. Here are Nameberry’s 2016 picks of 12 great not-quite-under-the-mistletoe yuletide names.
Balthazar, also spelled Balthasar, was one of the three kings who visited the infant Jesus bearing gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. A distinguished literary name, Balthazar has been used by Shakespeare (4 times!), Balzac and Lawrence Durrell. After all this time, it now definitely seems ready for prime time; Nine Inch Nails’s Trent Reznor named his son Balthazar in 2011.
The perennial Christmas song “White Christmas” will forever be associated with crooner Bing Crosby (born Harry Lillis). Bing has rarely been a birth certificate name, but when Kate Hudson named her son Bingham, called Bing, it put this zingy nickname into the realm of possibility.
Another of the Three Magi, Caspar was the one who brought the gift of gold. The Casper spelling was quite popular at the end of the 19th century, but at one point was scared off by Casper the Friendly Ghost. A revival is in the air—Casper is currently Number 470 on Nameberry and Caspar is 180th.
Christmas is a time for giving, making this virtue name a logical choice, one of the big three of the genre along with the much more frequently used Hope and Faith. Charity has a pleasing y-ending rhythmic sound a la Felicity and Amity, as well as its generosity association. No longer on the popularity list, Charity was in the Top 300 in the 1970s and 80s.
The heroine of the beloved holiday favorite The Nutcracker ballet, Clara has been pirouetting up the popularity lists for the past few decades. It is now at Number 98– its highest point since the 1940s– #59 on Nameberry, 45 in Spain and 18th in Portugal. Ewan McGregor chose it for his daughter.
The names of Santa’s reindeer have previously been off the table, but in today’s wild and wooly baby name landscape, I see no reason why Comet couldn’t join other bold names like Rocket, which has been chosen by such celebs as Pharrell and Sam Worthington for their sons—and even for one girl.
Commemorate the night before Christmas with the oldest name in the Good Book, one that is being increasingly appreciated for its classic simplicity. Eve currently ranks at Number 476 nationally, 142 with the Berries, 48 in Ireland and 92nd in Scotland. Parents of Eves include Jessica Capshaw, Sarah Polley, Jeffrey Tambour, Joy Behar and the late Steve Jobs.
Here’s a more unusual and subtle idea, referencing the wreaths of leaves decorating our homes for the holidays, one that could be used for either gender. It might surprise you to hear that Garland ranked on the boys’ US popularity list from 1880 to 1984, peaking at 251 in 1899 and 1905. Bonus: the connection to Judy G., whose repertoire included “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.”
‘The Holly and the Ivy” is a traditional old British folk Christmas carol, and though Holly might feel dated in the US (but still current in the UK), Ivy is very much on trend, along with other I names like Isabella and Isla. It’s now at its highest point ever–#129– having gotten a bounce from being the middle name of Beyoncé’s Blue Ivy Carter.
The Juniper is one of the less common species of Christmas trees, found mostly in the South—other usable tree names of the season are Douglas, Pine, Cypress, Virginia, Fraser, Noble and Leyland. Juniper is a lively, recently discovered name option that is soaring up the popularity list—it entered in 2011, is now at Number 429, and is 373 on Nameberry.
Of the many, many international variations of the name of the Virgin Mary, one of our very favorites is the charming French affectionate diminutive Manon—currently the fourth most popular name in France. Both actor Damian Lewis and Red Hot Chili Pepper Chad Smith have daughters named Manon..
Christmas TV perennial It’s a Wonderful Life premiered in 1946, yet it’s only recently that we’ve come to appreciate the adorable nickname name of Jimmy Stewart’s adorable movie daughter. Zuzu could be on the way to becoming the new Suzie.