The origin of Swan Lake’s name is not clear. It is listed as such on a map of Victoria in 1885. The more popular belief is that that name refers to the Trumpeter swans that would have visited the lake regularly. However, there is speculation that the lake was named after James Gilchrist Swan (1818-1900), a self-taught American ethnologist who spent his life exploring the cultures of the Indigenous peoples along the Northwest coast.
Similarly, there are many conflicting reports about the origin of the name Christmas Hill. During the late 1800’s and early 1900’s the hill was variously called (and cited on maps as) Lake Hill and Christmas Hill. One source (Saanich Municipality) indicates Christmas Hill was named after HBC Factor Joseph William McKay who discovered it on Christmas Day in the early 1840s.
Numerous sources recount the legend of Christmas Hill. Purportedly, on Christmas Eve in 1855, a large bird, which was thought to be Thunderbird by the Lekwungen peoples of the time, swooped down and carried away a small Lekwungen child from the Fort Victoria area. Men from the Fort and the community searched until the child was found playing happily on Lake Hill (as Christmas Hill was called then) on December 25. Because of this Christmas miracle, the Hill’s name was changed.
The names Swan Lake and Christmas Hill were finally officially confirmed by the Geographic Board of Canada on May 1, 1934.