Duana Names: Feliz Navidad!

Duana Posted by Duana at December 23, 2016 21:08:54 December 23, 2016 21:08:54

Dear Duana,

My best friend has recently gotten pregnant after an extended period of trying, and the new topic of conversation between her and her husband is what to name their to-be baby (gender unknown). It’s a long conversation, because my friend is an historian who likes literary names, and her husband is a Swedish scientist who wants a traditional, short Scandinavian name. They’re both equally determined to name the baby what they want, and I’m trying to find a different style so the baby doesn’t have the burden of a Jane Austen heroine, or the mundane quality of a Lars or Hans.

The baby will have the husband’s surname, which is a common Swedish last name that ends in -son and has three to four consonants, depending on whether it’s said in an American or Swedish accent. So my friend really wants to avoid a super plain first name, and likes the idea of the name having less consonants than the surname. She’s also had the idea of making the name subtly tied to Christmas somehow, as they have a lot of good memories together over the holiday period. She doesn’t like anything too overt though, as I’ve tried Holly, Noel, Ivy, or Nicholas and it’s a no-go. We all like the idea of a more gender neutral name as well.


Any ideas you can give us would be greatly appreciated!! It’s an exhausting conversation to have with two very headstrong people, so I’m hoping you can help!

Ahhhhh. It is everything I love about this column that we can earnestly read the phrase “…the mundane quality of a Lars or Hans” and nod along sagely, even though those names are so, so not mundane for a lot of English-speakers who read this column! This is the best. Thank you.

I am also charmed by the idea of having a Christmas-themed name that isn’t overtly ‘Christina’ or ‘Nick’, as you said above, and that was what made me spark to this letter (that I sorted through to find. You guys, please put due dates in your notes!).

I started to think about things that are associated with the holiday season, like the Nativity, and thought about Natalia – obvious, but not Natalie, especially if not born December 25th – or Nathaniel or Nate, depending on the length and breadth of the surname. I thought about  whether or not something that was related to ‘light’, as in the lights we associate with the season – like Lux or Dag (short and Scandinavian!) or Zephyr or …and I should have put this together, but I didn’t, so thank Nameberry’s search function … Elmo. You know, like St. Elmo’s fire? I know, I know. A lot of people wouldn’t. But if you would…why wouldn’t you?

Then, of course, I thought about Christmas carols, which I love. Good King Wenceslas…awesome, but no name there necessarily (I will not be suggesting ‘Stephen’).  But I am not and have never been above Rudolph. Still, I hear you that it’s not that gender neutral.

Then I thought about Feliz Navidad. Felice? And then, a short hop to one of my favourite names, Felicity. Felix. And the luck of having found each other, and a little baby. Or you could go with something musical, like Calliope or Bell or Drummond.  For that matter, following along with Feliz Navidad…Navarro? Nova? God, I love Nova. Is it going to be the next Luna, and if not could we make it so?

I really think I could stop right there. But you could go with Caspar of the Magi, or Balthazar, or if you and they, like me, think of Harry Potter as being intrinsically Christmassy, there’s nothing like Hermione to bring both to mind at once…or Ignatius, and now we’re back to the lights.

Then I think about names that are just straight up gifts – not in the way that I’m going to suggest naming your child ‘Cadeau’, but names I forgot or discovered for the first time this year, like Petra and Kai and Selah and Gesine, which my friend S has fallen in love with, which has worked its way into my heart by osmosis.

Ultimately, the way to name a baby an unpredictable Christmas name is to figure out what it most means to you, and while I usually eschew meanings, I’m down with it in this case, because it means something to you (well, you three!) together.

Let me know. Have an incredible holiday, all of you, keep making those babies and pets and characters that need names, thank you for absolutely everything in 2016, and may 2017 bring us many more names, situations, stories about what names are really for and about, and instances of Lainey screaming at me over email, “You suggested LARKSPUR?!”

Xo Duana

Gamma-Rapho/ Getty Images

Tags: Name Nerd
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