Christmas Surname Meaning, History & Origin

Christmas Surname Meaning

The word Christmas derives from the Old English word Cristesmaesse meaning “mass or festival of Christ.”  The surname may have started as a nickname for someone born on Christmas Day.  Alternatively it might have come to describe the person who was responsible locally for organizing the annual Christmas festivity.

Christmas Surname Resources on The Internet

Christmas Surname Ancestry

  • from SE England
  • to Denmark, America and Australia

England.  Christmas is very much a surname of SE England, extending southward to Sussex, Surrey and Kent and eastward to Cambridgeshire and Norfolk.  Its origin may well have been in Essex.  Roger Cristermesse was recorded in the Essex rolls of 1185.

Essex.  Three generations of Christmases were bailiffs at Colchester during the 1400’s and early 1500’s.  Thomas Christmas laid the basis for the family fortunes in the cloth trade which he later invested in Essex property.  His family had become the wealthiest family in Colchester by the early 1500’s.

Some think Gerard Christmas, the London wood carver and statuary of the early 1600’s, was related to this family. From 1619 to 1632 he was the official organizer of the Lord Mayor’s annual procession.  On his death in 1634 his sons John and Mathias succeeded him as master carvers.

Doctoris Christmas was arrested for sheep stealing at Runwell in Essex in 1618.  Five years later he was in America.

Elsewhere.  Thomas Christmas was a clothier in Guildford in the 1560’s.  A descendant Richard Christmas was a merchant in Bristol and his son Thomas one of Cromwell’s adventurers in Ireland.

Ireland.  Thomas Christmas came to Waterford in 1656 after all the Catholics had been expelled from the town.  He became its mayor in 1664.  First a merchant he turned himself into a country gentleman.  His descendants, based at Whitfield Court, remained an important Waterford family through the 18th and 19th centuries.

John Christmas, probably from an illegitimate line there, became a Devon merchant.  A descendant was Captain John Christmas who departed for Denmark in 1790 and established a Danish Christmas line.

America.  The Christmas name in America shows up mainly in the South.  Its early presence was in Virginia and North Carolina:

  • Dictoris Christmas appeared in Elizabeth City, Virginia in 1623.  He died in York county in 1654, but does not seem to have left any descendants.   
  • Goodman or Gad Christmas was in Virginia by this time and made his home in Stafford county.  He did leave descendants.  Captain John Christmas was a sizeable landowner in Warren county, North Carolina who took the American side during the Revolutionary War. Six of his sons fought in the war.
  • while Richard Christmas from this family became a major landowner in Mississippi.  His plantation at Shiloh near Tallua was recorded with 166 slaves in the 1860 census.  Richard died of yellow fever in 1878.

Mississippi ranked highest in Christmas numbers in the 1880 and 1920 census. A number were in Holmes county. Henry and Thomas Christmas were recorded there as a physician and a farmer in the 1870 census. 

Australia.  John  Christmas was a farm laborer on the Lincolnshire fens who came to South Australia in 1857 at the tender age of nineteen.  He did well as a farmer, storekeeper and mining agent, rising to serve as Justice of the Peace and mayor of Kadina.  His son Ernest, born in 1863, made his name as a painter.  He traveled widely in his life, ending up in Hawaii where he died. 

Christmas Names

  • Gerard Christmas enjoyed a high reputation as a wood carver and statuary in London in the early 1600’s.  His most notable accomplishment was probably the redesign of Aldersgate.
  • Lee Christmas was an American mercenary in Central America in the early 1900’s.  The Lee Christmas portrayed by Jason Statham in the Expendables movies was based in part on him.

Christmas Numbers Today

  • 2,000 in the UK (most numerous in London)
  • 2,000 in America (most numerous in Florida)
  • 1,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Australia)

Christmas and Like Surnames

These are surnames which have a small number of people bearing that name but are included here – for the curiosity of the name, its history, or because of some famous person who bears that name.


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Written by Colin Shelley

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