How did the big holidays get their names?

Once around the world? Why not? The grubby winter weather in Central Europe gives rise to wanderlust. Even if it is only enough to travel with your finger on the map.

375 years ago it was "land in sight" for Captain William Mynors and his crew. It was written on December 25, 1643, and the piece of land was an island of 135 square kilometers in the Indian Ocean. And because it was technically possible, it was given the name "Christmas Island".

Easter Island got its name in a similar way. On April 5, 1722, the expedition of the Dutchman Jacob Roggeveen explored the lonely island in the Pacific with heads hewn from tufa that were as mysterious as they were huge. The Europeans called it Easter Island "because it was Easter Sunday", as Carl Friedrich Behrens from Rostock, who belongs to Roggeveen's team, put it succinctly.

There is also a Whitsun island

Easter and Christmas Island, as well as Pentecost Island, which today belongs to Vanuatu, as well as Ascension (Ascension Day) in the Atlantic and Saint Martin or the Virgin Islands named after St. Ursula and her 11,000 virgins in the Caribbean: You could spend an entire church year cruising along divine shores.

Part of the whole story, however, is that many of these exotic islands had completely different names before they were "discovered" by the most Christian sailors, above all Christopher Columbus, from the end of the 15th century. Easter Island, named Rapa Nui by its actual inhabitants, is not an isolated case.

Paternoster: stone obstacles

In the "Old World", however, the roots go back further, belief and superstition are mixed. Like St. Paul's Islands, two uninhabited rocks that belong to Malta. The apostle Paul is said to have been shipwrecked here. He was trapped on board a Roman ship, but according to tradition he was able to swim ashore like the rest of the crew.

Broken mast and sheet - history does not always turn out lightly. The passage at the Pierres de Lecq is considered particularly treacherous. The reef-like structure lies between the British and French coasts in a region with one of the largest tidal waves ever. Allegedly, the difference in level between ebb and flow is said to be twelve meters, depending on the location you can see sometimes more, sometimes less of the Pierres de Lecq. Passing seafarers therefore sent an Our Father into heaven - "Paternoster" is another name for the stone obstacles.

Two Christmas days - two Christmas islands

Sometimes the references are not so clearly visible. The full name of the Canary Island of La Palma is La Isla de San Miguel de La Palma. In contrast to La Palma, an insider tip is Gaztelugatxe in the Bay of Biscay. Remnants of a monastery and legends about the Knights Templar make the Basque island a truly holy place.

The Scottish archipelago of St. Kilda, on the other hand, puzzles even church experts. One looks in vain for a holy kilda - it may be a corruption of the Norwegian "sunt kelda" for "sweet well water".

Back to Christmas Island. In addition to the territory belonging to Australia there is another Christmas island: the Kiribati atoll "Kiritimati" - a transcription of the English "Christmas". Two Christmas islands? Fits. After all, there are also two Christmas holidays.