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Popular Holiday Greetings in 4 of the World’s Most Spoken Languages

Popular Holiday Greetings in 4 of the World’s Most Spoken Languages

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What’s your favourite holiday of the year? If you’re anything like most people, it won’t take you that long before you wholeheartedly exclaim: “it’s Christmas!”. Christmas is a holiday that brings to mind a very vivid picture… One of turkey family dinners and beautifully decorated Christmas trees.

Depending on the country you’re from, its traditions, and your religion, amongst other things, however, you may choose not to celebrate Christmas at all. Regardless of your personal preferences, you know at least one person or two that do celebrate this globally adored holiday – and might be wondering which holiday greetings to use in your Christmas cards this year. However, what happens when your friends have a mother tongue other than your own?
In this article, we will look over greetings for Christmas and New Year’s, in four of the most spoken languages worldwide, while paying attention to their cultural and linguistic nuances. We will also explore fascinating Christmas facts about each country where these languages are spoken most along the way.
Whether you’re just looking for culturally appropriate holiday greetings that can impress your international friends or even a marketer that’s looking for phrases that will wow your international audience and make them stick around throughout 2023, these lists are for you.

The Cultural and Linguistic Nuances of Holiday Greetings

When you’re looking for ways to wish someone for the holidays, it’s paramount that you consider the cultural and linguistic nuances associated with each greeting – meaning there’s both a correct and incorrect context in which holiday greetings can be used. For example, you wouldn’t want to wish “Merry Christmas” to someone you barely know using an informal tone, the same way as you’d wish your closest friends. There’s a distinction between informal and formal speech with certain languages.
There’s also the potential of conveying the greeting falsely, particularly if you’re translating word-for-word. You can’t just use google translate and simply hope for the best – this could lead to grave spelling or grammatical errors.
The fact of the matter is that cultural awareness and language fluency come together as part of a package. With that in mind, let’s consider various holiday greeting examples from language to language in the sections below.

1. English (1,132 million speakers)

We’re all aware that English is the most widely spoken language in the world, and it shouldn’t come as a surprise that most of its speakers reside in the United States.
Given the US’s multicultural nature, it shares many of the same customs with the UK, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, and Mexico. Sending out Christmas cards to all your loved ones, enjoying a candlelit turkey family dinner on the night of Christmas Eve, and singing Christmas carols are all well-known practices that these cultures share.

Why the European and American Christmas Traditions are so Similar: A Quick History Lesson on Christmas Trees

At this point, it’s worth exploring the historical facts surrounding the intermingling of European and US Christmas customs.
The most notable tradition these cultures have in common is no other than setting up a Christmas tree inside the home, placing presents to be opened on Christmas Eve underneath, and decorating them with ornaments of various shapes and sizes.
Going back in time, Christmas trees were non-existent in the US until the 1750s, when this custom was brought in by German immigrants in Pennsylvania. These trees were thought to be an oddity and were rejected by Americans for the longest time, as they were considered nothing other than a pagan symbol. It wasn’t until the 1890s that they became mainstream and made their way into American tradition.
In the end, it was one decisive moment that made this tradition be loved by everyone all over the UK and the US: when Queen Victoria’s German husband, Prince Albert, put up a Christmas tree at Windsor Castle in 1848. From there, trees became a recognizable Christmas symbol across Europe and other parts of America.
In a similar vein, many other customs have intersected between these two continents.
Now that we know a little bit about the context behind the intersection of European and American Christmas traditions, here’s a list of holiday wishes, other than your stereotypical ‘Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year’, you could use this year:

Popular Holiday Greetings

Christmas greetings:
● It’s people like you that make Christmas a sacred, meaningful occasion. Merry Christmas!
● Sending lots of peace and joy to you and your family this Christmas season!
● Gifts come and go. What really matters are the people who light up our lives all year long. Thank you!
● May your family have a holiday season that is full of wonderful surprises, treats and nonstop laughter!
New Year greetings:
● Out with the old, in with the new. Here’s to a new year, here’s to you!
● Wishing you health, wealth, and new blessings to count each day in 2023!
● Happy New Year! Here’s to feeling thankful for the year behind and enthusiastic for the year ahead.
● May all that is beautiful, meaningful and brings you joy be yours this holiday season and throughout the coming year!

2. Mandarin (1,117 million speakers)

The overwhelming majority of Mandarin language speakers reside in mainland China, which totals 800 million people.
Christians make up a relatively small fraction of China’s total population (about 5%), and that explains why Christmas isn’t as extensively or frivolously celebrated as it is in many other parts of the world. That’s except for the big cities, where you will find Christmas trees, lights, Santa grottos, as well as decorations on the streets and in department stores. Many performers also dress up as Santa Claus, called ‘shèng dàn lǎo rén’ (圣诞老人) in Mandarin which literally translates to ‘Old Christmas guy’.

Apples: A Chinese Christmas Symbol

Their arguably most bizarre tradition is their act of using Christmas as a special occasion to turn apples into expensive gifts. The reasoning behind this tradition lies on the fact that Christmas Eve in China is called ‘Ping’an Ye’ (平安夜), translating to ‘a peaceful evening’, whilst the Mandarin word for apple ‘píngguǒ’ (苹果) sounds close to the word ‘píng’ (苹) which means ‘peace’.
It’s for this reason that the apple became known in China as the “Christmas fruit” or ‘shèngdàn guǒ’ (圣诞果) and why it’s believed that eating apples on Christmas Eve makes it more likely you’ll have a peaceful new year.

How to say Merry Christmas in Mandarin and other Holiday Greetings

● Merry Christmas! – 圣诞节快乐 (shèng dàn kuài lè!)
This phrase in Mandarin directly translates to ‘Christmas Happy’.
There’s also an extended version of this greeting that’s ‘shèng dàn jié kuài lè’ (圣诞节快乐). The only one difference between the two greetings is that in the latter, the word for ‘holiday’ (节 – jié) gets added to the mix. Meanwhile, the full word for Christmas that can be seen in this greeting is 圣诞节, which literally means ‘Holy Birth Festival’. Generally, it’s far simpler to stick to the shorter phrase when wishing your friends.
Happy birthday Jesus! – 耶诞快乐! (yē dàn kuài lè!)
This phrase is best reserved for your Mandarin-speaking Christian friends. The greeting’s literal translation is “Merry Jesus’ birthday”, where the character 耶 (yē) is short for 耶稣 (yē sū) which means ‘Jesus’.
Happy Holidays! – 佳节快乐! (jiā jié kuài lè!)
This ‘Merry Christmas’ alternative quite literally means ‘Merry Festivities’.
Given there are a few holidays that take place during the December month in China, this phrase is a useful shorthand for wishing them all the best in the holiday season.
Here are a few other great holiday greetings:
● Merry Christmas and a wonderful New Year! – 圣诞快乐,新年好! (shèng dàn kuài lè, xīn nián hǎo!)
● Best wishes on this holiday season! – 献上最诚挚的节日祝福! (xiàn shàng zuì chéng zhì de jié rì zhù fú!).
● Wishing you peace, joy and happiness through Christmas and the coming year! – 在圣诞和新年来临之际,祝福你平安、快乐、幸福!(zài shèng dàn hé xīn nián lái lín zhī jì, zhù fú nǐ píng ān, kuài lè, xìng fú!)

3. Spanish (534 million speakers)

About one out of five Spanish speakers live in Mexico, making it the world’s top Spanish-speaking country. Mexico, as well as other Spanish-speaking places, are generally quite religious. That implies that their most commonly used holiday greetings are of religious significance.
In Mexico, Christmas celebrations begin as early as the 12th of December and last until the 6th of January. For Mexicans, Christmas is a holiday packed with festivities, family dinners, and a bunch of piñatas.

The Mexican Posada tradition: Lighting Joseph and Mary’s way

An interesting tradition can be observed in Mexican Christmas. During this festive period, Mexicans carry out nine processions, called ‘Posadas’ (meaning Lodging in Spanish). These are used to celebrate Joseph and Mary’s search for shelter, a crucial part of the Christmas story we’ve all heard about.
On the nights that the Posadas are performed, shaped paper sacks are partly filled with sand, on top of which a candle’s placed. These are called ‘luminarias’ or ‘farolitos’ and are used to light the path that Joseph and Mary are supposed to be walking on.
On each occasion, children call friends and neighbours’ houses and sing a song, asking for a room in which Joseph and Mary could stay. The children are eventually allowed into somebody’s home, where prayers of thanks are offered and all the fun is just about to begin – as the day ends with a party filled with food, drink, fireworks, and of course, piñatas!

How to say Merry Christmas in Spanish and other Holiday Greetings

Merry Christmas! – ¡Feliz Navidad!
Although the literal translation of this phrase is ‘Happy Nativity’ (i.e., happy birth of baby Jesus), you use ‘Feliz Navidad’ the exact same way as you would ‘Merry Christmas’. You might already be familiar with this phrase thanks to the popular Spanish song ‘Feliz Navidad’.
Happy New Year! – Feliz Año Nuevo, Próspero Año!
Between ‘Feliz Año Nuevo’ and ‘Próspero Año’, the former represents the more literal translation of ‘Happy New Year’ (as ‘Feliz’ means ‘Happy’). However, the most common way that Spanish speakers communicate this wish with one another, whether that’d be through songs, cards, or written greetings, is by saying ‘Próspero Año’.
I hope you have a prosperous New Year – Que tengas un próspero año!
Another common way of wishing someone a ‘Happy New Year’ in Spanish. However, if you wish to direct this greeting to a greater number of people, such as your followers on social media, make sure to change the singular ‘tengas’ to its plural form ‘tengan’.
May God bless you and your family this Christmas/New Year! – Que Dios te bendiga a ti y a toda tu famila en esta Navidad/Año Nuevo!
As mentioned above, Spanish-speaking countries are home to many Christians. Therefore, this greeting is the perfect fit for wishing your religious Spanish friends. The more formal version of this phrase is ‘Que Dios le bendiga a usted y a toda su familia esta Navidad’.
Here are a few other great holiday greetings:
● Hope you have a Christmas full of love/peace/joy/health! – Que tengas una Navidad llena de amor/paz/alegría/salud!
● Hope all your wishes come true in the New Year! – Que se cumplan todos tus deseos en el año nuevo!
● With all my love, I wish you a Happy Christmas! – Con mucho cariño, te deseo una Feliz Navidad!

4. French (280 million speakers)

Christmas is a highly significant celebration all over France, even amongst non-Christians. As with most European and American countries, Christmas is a family holiday in France and an occasion during which family members, including parents, grandparents, and cousins, come together. The French holiday seasons, including those for Christmas and New Year’s, are collectively called ‘Les fêtes de fin d’année’ (‘the holidays at the end of the year’).
During the holiday period, France hosts multiple Christmas markets (called ‘marchés de Noël’, where ‘Noël’ means Christmas), analogous to the markets that German Christmas are popularly known for. However, the prize for the most massive Christmas market in the entire Europe goes to France! This particular market takes place in Strasbourg, Alsace, every year.
In the marches de Noël, the mood is festive and everything is sparkly, and you will find little wooden houses where one can enjoy as much food, spiced mulled wine (known as vine chaud, similar to Swedish glögg and German glühwein), and special crafts as they wish.

‘Vive le Vent’: A Wildly Different Version of ‘Jingle Bells’

A carol that’s frequently sang during French Christmas is the popular Christmas song many of us know the lyrics to: ‘Jingle Bells’. The French name of this carol is ‘Vive le Vent’, where the construction of ‘vive’ plus a noun is a commonplace French construction that’s used for the purpose of honouring someone or something. This construction is often translated to “long live”.
Interestingly, the lyrics of ‘Vive le Vent’ bear almost no resemblance to the original ‘Jingle Bells’ carol, and it’s only the tune that’s faithful to the original. The song’s chorus which goes “Jingle bells, jingle bells, jingle all the way…” is “Vive le vent, vive le vent, vive le vent d’hiver…” in French, which translates to “Long live the wind, long live the wind, long live the winter wind…”.
As it seems, however, the adaptation of popular Christmas songs in other languages is not uncommon and can be observed across many countries around the world. This makes sense, considering that the rhythm of the entire song changes depending on the language you’re using.

How to say Merry Christmas in French and other Holiday Greetings

● Merry Christmas! – Joyeux Noël!
Noël (Christmas) can be used both a feminine and a masculine noun in French. In 99% of cases, Noël is used as a masculine noun, observed in ‘Le… Noël’ constructions. For instance: C’est le plus beau Noël de ma vie. (“This is the best Christmas of my life.”)
Only 1% of the time is Noël used as a feminine noun, which is observed in ‘La Noël’ constructions, such as ‘la fête de Noël’ (‘the holiday of Christmas’). This structure is formal and isn’t commonly used.
● I wish you a Merry Christmas! – Je te souhaite un joyeux Noël!
Another informal way of wishing someone Merry Christmas. In formal settings or when addressing more than one person, make sure you opt for ‘Je vous souhaite un joyeux Noël’.
● Happy New Year! – Bonnes fêtes de fin d’année!
A typical alternative to this greeting is ‘Joyeuses fêtes de fin d’année’. Simply get rid of the ‘de fin d’année’ (meaning ‘the end of the year’), if you’d like, for the more neutral greeting ‘Bonnes fêtes’ (‘Happy Holidays’).
Don’t confuse ‘Bonnes fêtes’ with ‘Bonne fête’, however, which is more commonly used to wish someone a happy name day.
● I wish you all the best for this new year! – Je vous souhaite tout le meilleur pour cette nouvelle année!
A formal greeting that has a personal touch to it, guaranteed to surprise the recipient. The most formal version of wishing someone the best for the new year is “Meilleur vœux”.
Here are a few other great holiday greetings:
● Wishes of Happiness for a Merry Christmas! – Vœux de Bonheur pour un Joyeux Noël!
● May the year 2023 bring you happiness, health and prosperity! – Que l’année 2023 vous apporte bonheur, santé et prospérité!
● A year ends, another one replaces it: Here is a marvelous occasion to send you all my wishes for happiness and success – Une année se termine, une autre la remplace: voici une merveilleuse occasion de vous adresser tous mes vœux de bonheur et de réussite.

Ready to Craft the Perfect Christmas Card?

We hope you’ve enjoyed this short ride in our attempt of dismantling language barriers and spreading the holiday spirit.
We can’t guarantee you won’t have trouble copying the Mandarin greetings, if your preferred way of wishing your friends happy holidays this year is through a personally-written Christmas or New Year’s card. For the rest of you though, you can simply copy and paste all holiday greetings listed above, and you’re good to go!
Whatever you’re trying to communicate across, you always need to make sure you’re crafting your messaging in the language that your recipients understand best and that you pay attention to the cultural and linguistic nuances. Otherwise, that message is bound to fall on deaf ears and won’t feel as personalised as it must.
If you wish to hit the right note with your international audience, translating and localizing your content with the help of expert, professional translators, such as ourselves at Pangea Global, is the best way to do it. Feel free to send any of your translation requests our way here. Until then, we wish you all the best in 2023!
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