Some of the most popular baby names in America pay homage to the holidays. Parents give boys and girls names that either directly or indirectly refer to Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, and any number of other major celebrations. 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 probably 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.
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," which is probably the most famous holiday tale 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.
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.
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."
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 remains one of the 50 most common boy names in America. 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 remains among the top 175 most popular girl baby names. 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."
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."
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. Snow, by the way, is the stuff white Christmases are made of.
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. Today, there are just 30 baby girl names more popular than this one.
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," who, of course, Christmas is all about. The name soared in popularity in the 1980s.
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.
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 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.
Eve is a Hebrew-origin name that's currently enjoying a surge in popularity. The word 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 now among the 115 most common baby girl names in America. Since many holidays have religious origins, few names are more significant, as believers are often called "people of faith."
A variation of the Anglicized name Natalie, Natalia is in the top 115 most popular baby girl names in America. 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 35 most popular baby girl names in America.
While Ramadan, Easter, and many other 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 415 most common baby names for girls.