According to www.forebears.io, an online, genealogical index, there are 703 people in Canada with the surname Merry, along with 629 others who sport the surname Christmas.
"I actually belong to a Facebook group where the only way you can be a member is if your last name is Merry, spelled precisely that way," says Patricia Merry, when reached at home in St. Vital. "There are 48 of us in the group, from all over the world. It’s pretty cool because at Christmas-time, our page just lights right up."
Merry, an ex-army brat, didn’t really clue into any Christmas-y connotations associated with her last name until she started grade school in Shilo, she says.
"To me, it was just my name and who thinks about that, when you’re a kid," she goes on, noting when people ask how her name is spelled, her typical response is "Merry, as in Christmas." "But every December, all I heard from the other students was ‘Patty Merry Christmas, Patty Merry Christmas.’ I never minded too much, though. I love this time of year and it’s nice, in a way, to have a special connection to it, through my last name."
In November, a story written by the Free Press’s Mike Sawatzky quoted former Winnipeg Jets coach Claude Noel, now a scout for the New Jersey Devils. Spotting the former bench boss’s joyful tag sparked an idea: with the holidays right around the corner, why not reach out to people with seasonal-sounding surnames, to chat about everything from their fave Christmas movie (Love Actually!) to how people react to their name to special family traditions.
For her part, Merry, whose favourite carol is Silent Night, always makes a point of watching The Waltons TV-special The Homecoming: A Christmas Story. Also, she wouldn’t dream of trimming her tree unless her daughter Fallon is right there, alongside her.
Here’s a bit of what everybody else had to say.
Yes, Virginia, on more than one occasion Chelsea Chrismas, a university student and yoga instructor, has been asked if her middle name is Mary. At which point she replies that, in actuality, she had a great-grandmother named Mary Chrismas.
"The look on their face is priceless, mostly in disbelief."
Chrismas remembers being kidded about her surname as far back as grade school, but not so much by her fellow students.
"Many more of the teachers made jokes about my last name than my schoolmates," she says. "An ongoing joke was ‘Oh, looks like Christmas came early this year.’"
Chrismas says she and her parents haven’t done much research on the origin of their festive family name, but she is in possession of an old article from the Minnedosa Tribune about her great-grandfather Walter Elliot Chrismas, a preacher who became known as Father Christmas, after he immigrated to Manitoba from England in 1892.
"We have another article about my grandfather Doug Chrismas who made a joke of riding a turkey to the office every day, to work off the fat," she says, adding there’s a definite advantage to having the last name Chrismas.
"At our house, every dinner is Chrismas dinner."
No surprise, Gillian Santa’s favourite Christmas flick is The Santa Clause, the 1994 comedy starring Tim Allen as Scott Calvin, an ordinary joe who has to take St. Nick’s place, after the jolly, old elf takes a tumble on Christmas Eve.
"I don’t mind the sequel (The Santa Clause 2) either, but the first one; yeah, we make sure to watch that one pretty much every year."
Santa’s grandparents founded Santa Furs, which used to be situated at the corner of Corydon Avenue and Lilac Street. Because her grandfather’s full name was Rudolph Santa, he was on the receiving end of numerous prank phone calls through the years, she says with a chuckle.
Santa will be getting married next June and recently, she and her fiancé ho-ho-hosted a holiday-themed wedding social where guests were encouraged to don ugly Christmas sweaters, while dancing the night away to tunes such as Bobby Helms’ Jingle Bell Rock.
Alas, the Manitoba Liquor & Lotteries employee intends to hang up her hat, Santa-wise, following her nuptials.
"I’m planning to take my husband’s name — it’d be bit of a mouthful to combine the two, I feel — but I might go back to Santa on Facebook, at Christmas-time," she says.
"There’s a good reason for that," Lori Rudolph-Crawford says, explaining her decision to hyphenate her name, after she got hitched. "I’d been Rudolph my whole life and for sure, I remember being teased about it a ton, but by the time I hit adulthood, I was pretty proud to be a Rudolph."
True to her name, Rudolph-Crawford is partial to the classic, stop-motion animated TV special Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer; "the one with Yukon Cornelius and the Island of Misfit Toys."
She wouldn’t have minded being ribbed about that particular cartoon so much, she says, if just once a jokester came up with something even remotely original.
"It was always, ‘Hey, Rudolph, where’s Santa?’ or ‘Hey, Rudolph, show us your red nose.’ I was like, ‘Heard it, heard it, heard it.’"
And while Rudolph-Crawford, can’t think of any nasal-related anecdotes pertaining to herself, she does have a yarn about one of her cousins that’s worth sharing.
"One day, just before Christmas, she slipped on a patch of ice and broke her nose," Rudolph-Crawford says. "When she got to the hospital and told the admitting nurse her last name, the nurse couldn’t control herself from laughing. She said, ‘Your name is Rudolph and you’re in here with this big, red nose?’ "
Pamela Yule guesses she would have been five or six years old when she heard Nat King Cole’s rendition of The Christmas Song for the first time.
"When he got to the line about yuletide carols being sung by a choir, I’m pretty sure I asked somebody in my family why he was singing about us."
Because most children aren’t overly familiar with the word yule as it relates to the Christmas season, Yule was largely spared from being bugged too much about her surname, she says.
"On rare occasions, somebody called out, ‘Hey, yule-log’ or something to that effect, but honestly, it was more me, who took advantage of it. Like when I was running for student council, and wrote on my posters, ‘Yule be sorry if you don’t vote for Pamela.’"
Yule, who lives near Lac du Bonnet, where she runs the Yule Honey Company, says one thing she looks forward to on Dec. 25 is receiving a chocolate P in her stocking.
"Waterbridge makes them every year and my mom has given me one for as long as I can remember. I may be 39 years old, but I’d still be disappointed if I looked in my stocking on Christmas morning and there wasn’t one there."
David Tanenbaum can’t say enough good things about the Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre’s recent production of A Christmas Carol, which ended its run Dec. 16.
Citing the Alastair Sim movie of the same name as his favourite Christmas film, all-time, ("I watch it every year, and think the reason I like it so much is it’s a really good life message"), he wasn’t disappointed by the live version that starred Robb Paterson as Ebenezer Scrooge.
"It was absolutely fantastic and the lead actor was just over-the-top. I’ve been going to MTC for years and without a doubt, it’s probably one of the best productions I’ve seen there."
Tanenbaum says when he was growing up, few of his peers twigged into the fact tannenbaum, spelled with a second N, is the German term for a fir tree.
"So no, I wasn’t bugged about my name for that reason," he says. "I got a lot more kids calling me cannon-bomb than anything else."
Sure, Howard Snowball endured a flurry of snow-related jibes when he was growing up, but the older he’s gotten, the more he’s warmed up to his wintry surname.
"I heard ‘em all, especially when the city was hit by a blizzard or something, but now I kind of laugh, and don’t take it too seriously," says the retired Canada Post employee. (Yes, he’s heard his share of "through rain, sleet and snow, the mail must go through" jokes, too.)
Snowball did some research on his name a few years back and discovered it’s Welsh in origin, and has little to do with icy projectiles.
"It was originally spelled Snowballe, with an E at the end, and means a person with white hair. We laugh about that in my family because my grandmother on my dad’s side, her last name was White. So that’s right; when she married my grandfather, she became Jemina White-Snowball."
One of the ways we got in touch with people for this story was by literally leafing through the phone book (kids, ask your parents) and mailing Christmas cards to folks whose surnames caught our eye. A few days after receiving our card, a woman named Rachel Donner replied, via email.
"My name is Rachel Donner — you reached out to me about a story idea you had for people with Christmas-related names. Cute idea. So, here’s the sitch: we are Jewish, my good friend. That being said, it has been pretty hilarious at times going through life as a secular Jew with the name of a (practically) secular reindeer.
"But it does make spelling my last name over the phone to people easier: 'That’s right, Donner — like the reindeer,' I always say. People get it the first time that way. None of this Doner-with-one-N-business. Those people are imposters."
Dave Sanderson was born in Regina but please, don’t hold that against him.
Updated on Saturday, December 23, 2017 at 2:57 PM CST: Names fixed.