By Linda Rosenkrantz for Nameberry.com
If you’re choosing a name for a Christmas baby and you want to reference the holiday, there are two ways you can go. You can either be extremely subtle -- say by choosing the surname of a character in a Christmas movie -- such as Bailey in "It’s a Wonderful Life," or Virginia, as in “Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.” Or you can go the other way, and use a name that is traditionally and obviously associated with the yuletide season.
And this year, that’s what we’re opting for -- twelve classic names that say Christmas loud and clear.
Christmas: Can you be more blatant than this? Though it’s rare, Christmas has been used occasionally for both boys and girls in the past. In pop culture, Christmas Jones was a nuclear physicist Bond girl played by Denise Richards in the 1999, "The World is Not Enough," and on the old sitcom "Three’s Company," ditzy Chrissy was christened Christmas Noelle Snow.
Natalie: A longtime favorite for girls born around the Christmas season, Natalie is now at her highest popularity point ever -- number 14. Once closely tied to Natalie (born Natasha) Wood, her most conspicuous bearers today are actress Natalie Portman and singers Cole, Merchant, Appleton, Imbruglia, and Maines.
Eve: A great just-before-Christmas name, one that has everything: strong biblical roots, strength and simplicity, packing a lot of power into its single syllable. The oldest name in The Book, Eve has been chosen for their daughters by Clive Owen, Jessica Capshaw and Jeffrey Tambor.
Bell: Drop the ‘e’ from the popular Belle, and you have a much more musical noun name. This spelling was quite the rage before and after the turn of the last century -- in fact Bell reached a high of Number 275 in 1884. But it hasn’t chimed as a name since 1915.
Berry: Until around 1970, Berry was a not-uncommon boys’ name -- as in Motown founder Berry Gordy. Now, with the growing interest in fruit names like Plum and Clementine, this more generic appellation would probably be seen more as a possibility for girls. One female Berry of note was photographer Berry Berenson, whose birth certificate read Berinthia.
Holly: Deck the halls. Holly may be sliding in this country -- it’s at its lowest point since 1942 -- but it’s a solid Number 26 hit in England and Wales. And just to show how seasonal names can be, Holly was the second most popular name in the UK for girls born last December. Most Christmassy character name: Holly Holiday played by Gwyneth Paltrow on "Glee."
Merry: A cheery 1950’s name given to hundreds of girls who had to spend their lives protesting that their name wasn’t Mary. The Merry character featured in Tolkien’s "Lord of the Rings" is a male fully named Meriadoc Brandybuck, and Dickens’s character Merry Pecksmith was christened Mercy. Miss Merry Christmas has her own video game.
Joy: Like Merry, Joy is something of a high-pressure-personality kind of name, but is still in steady use, especially as a middle name. Some parents -- even non-Italian ones -- are considering Gioia as well, along with Giulia, Giuliana, Giovanna et al. The View’s Joy Behar was originally Josephina.
Noel: Noel, and sister name Noelle, have succeeded in having lives independent of their Christmas connection. Noel has long projected the slender, sophisticated, witty image of British playwright/composer Noel Coward, though rocker Noel Gallagher has buffed it up a bit. The French female version Noelle currently ranks Number 357 in the US.
Balthazar: The name of one of the Three Wise Men of the Orient -- also spelled Balthasar -- who brought gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh to the baby Jesus, is also the appellation of a 12-litre champagne bottle and a chic New York restaurant, not to mention an up-and-coming baby name for cutting-edge parents. Fellow Wise Man name Caspar is even more on the rise.
Rudolph: Sure, he’d probably get a certain amount of red-nosed teasing around the holiday, but a boy named Rudolph could probably take it. Besides, he’s got other, more distinguished, namesakes -- the great ballet dancer Nureyev, silent screen lothario Valentino and 9-11 New York mayor Giuliani. It’s one of those abandoned vintage names that just might come back.
Carol: There were more than 24,000 baby Carols born in 1941, but a handful at most are arriving these days, when its prime representatives are of the Carol Burnett-Carol Channing generation. Twenty-first century parents are opting for the more classic Caroline and Carolina instead.
Plus, here are Nameberry’s predictions for baby names in 2013.