Clara

The Australian Ballet's Madeleine Eastoe as Clara in "The Nutcracker"

Origin: Latin
Gender: Female
Meaning: "Bright, clear, famous"
Pronunciation: CLAIR-uh, KLAR-uh
Other Forms: Claire, Clare, Klara, Chiara, Claribel, Clarette; Clarus, Clair

Today's name is another classic Christmas choice that dates all the way back to Ancient Rome!

Clara is the feminine form of the Latin Clarus, meaning "clear, bright, famous", and became popular due to Saint Chiara (or Clare) of Assisi, a follower and friend of Saint Francis'. According to tradition, after hearing Saint Francis preach at a Lenten service, she approached him and asked how she could live her life in accordance to the gospel. On the evening of Palm Sunday, Chiara escaped her wealthy family, along with her aunt Bianca and a companion, and headed to the Porziuncula chapel to meet Francis. There, they sheared her hair short and exchanged her beautiful dress for simple robes. She was placed in a convent in San Paulo, but was tracked down by her father who attempted to force her to come home with him. Chiara clung to the altar of the church and tossed aside her veil, showing him her hair, and declared that she would have no husband but Jesus Christ himself. Later, Saint Chiara would go on to found a religious order for women in the Franciscan tradition called the "Poor Clares".

Most people's first thought when they hear Clara is the young protagonist of The Nutcracker, an 1892 ballet choreographed by Marius Petipa and Lev Ivanov, set to music by Tchaikovsky. Based on The Nutcracker and the Mouse King by Prussian author E.T.A. Hoffman, it tells the story of how a girl's favorite toy, a nutcracker, comes to life, defeats the mouse king, and takes her to a magical land of dolls. In the original story Clara is not Clara at all -- her name is Marie Stahlbaum. One of her beloved dolls is the bearer of the name Klara and is affectionately called Klärchen. No one truly knows why she underwent a name change, only that in the notes for the original ballet that is how she is referred to.

Clara is elegant with a stunning meaning and an amazing connection to Christmas, which would be perfect for a girl born during the season (or not!). What do you think of Clara?

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