The coastline of Christmas Island in the Indian Ocean.

Essential Questions: Why is it called “Christmas Island” and why is there more than one?

Christmas Island (Indian Ocean)

Approx. 1,550 kilometers (960 mi) northwest of Australia.

The island was named by Captain William Mynors of the British East India Company who passed by it on 25 December 1643 and named it after Christmas Day (Misachi, 2017, para. 3).

Originally a British territory, the island was settled and used for its timber and phosphate resources. It was officially put under the administration of the Australian government in 1958 and most of it currently functions as a national park (Misachi, 2017, paras. 1-4).

Christmas Island (Tasmania)

Not to be confused with Little Christmas Island. Christmas Island lies off the northwest coast of King Island to the northwest of Tasmania. It’s part of the New Year Island Group and holds a nature reserve.

Christmas Island (Nova Scotia)

The island holds a small community in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia. According to Hughenna McKinnon, one theory is that a Mi’kmaq First Nation person by the name of Christmas lived in the area. A second theory is that the government land survey was completed on Christmas Eve, hence the name was given to the island (as cited in, n.d.).

Christmas Island (Pacific Ocean)

AKA Kiritimati

In the Line Islands approx. 1,340 miles south of Honolulu, HI. It’s part of the Republic of Kiribati.

Named by Captain James Cook on 24 December 1777 (Luscombe, n.d., para. 1) According to the Kiribati National Tourism Office (2020), “The name “Kiritimati” is a rather straightforward respelling of the English word “Christmas” in the Kiribati language, in which the combination ti is pronounced s, and the name is thus pronounced /kəˈrɪsməs/.” The whole atoll currently functions as a wildlife sanctuary (paras. 1-5).

Summary: There are several Christmas Islands and most of their naming has some connection with the holiday. Some were named by explorers who discovered or surveyed the islands on or around December 25th.

I mean who’d of thunk? Christmas Island is named after the holiday on December 25th! Brilliant…I know.

References (n.d.). A trip to Christmas Island in Nova Scotia . HELLO!.

Kiribati National Tourism Office. (2020). Kiritimati Island.

Luscombe, S. (n.d.). Christmas Atoll.

Misachi, J. (2017, August 1). Where is Christmas Island? World Atlas.