The season is upon us! And for all us language learners, a fun way for us to celebrate is to learn how to say Merry Christmas in different languages (and of course, to learn about some of the customs and traditions in these countries). Here we have a list of 10 ways to say Merry Christmas and how that country celebrates Christmas.
My favourite thing about this, is that different countries have their main Christmas celebrations on different days. So if you had enough money and no job restrictions, you could fly from country to country throughout the Christmas period and celebrate Christmas over and over again, from the 5th of December (the Netherlands) up until the 6th of January (Spain).
English (although you probably already know this one)
Merry Christmas, though Americans tend to say Happy holidays during the winter season.
There are so many Christmas traditions that the UK celebrates, but most of them are similar to other countries. So to try and find something that is quite unique to the UK, we have: mince pies, Christmas crackers and Christmas pudding.
- Mince pies: Don’t let the name fool you, these pies are not made out of meat. Mince pies are a sweet pudding filled with dried fruits and spices, named mincemeats.
- A Christmas cracker is a brightly coloured cardboard tube that has been twisted and contains a joke, a hat and a small toy inside. Two people hold the ends of the cracker and pull to split the cardboard. When you pull, the cracker makes a bang sound and the person with the largest segment gets to keep what’s inside.
In Spain, Christmas doesn’t begin on Christmas day but instead starts around midnight on Christmas Eve, where the family will eat a special meal to celebrate the start of Christmas.
Many of the French Christmas traditions are the same as English traditions, though a big difference is the food they eat. Their Christmas meal consists of the very French dish foie gras and other more traditionally French foods that we wouldn’t find on English Christmas dinners like venison and oysters.
In Spain, the most important day is the 6th of January rather than the 25th, because they celebrate the day the three kings came and brought gifts to the baby Jesus rather than the day he was born. You can see the logic in this, as Jesus was given gifts on the 6th, and their gift giving day is on the 6th.
They also believe that the three wise men bring gifts to the children, and not Santa Claus.
One of your favourite Christmas traditions came out of Germany and that is the Christmas Tree. The Christmas tree originated in Germany in the 16th century and has been adopted by most Christmas celebrating countries world wide. And we can see why, Christmas doesn’t feel like Christmas until people start to put their trees up. this strange tradition spread like wild fire. Whenever a German went to a different country, they took this tradition, and everyone else followed.
In the Netherlands, their important day is much earlier than in other countries. On the 5th of December, Sinterklaas gives the children their presents.
The celebrations actually begin a lot earlier in the Netherlands too, with SinterKlaas arriving on the shores of the Netherlands from Madrid on the first Saturday after the 11th of November. Every year he arrives at a different harbour, so different towns get to experience the magic of welcoming SinterKlaas.
This also helps to explain how Santa Claus can visit so many children to drop off presents, because everyone seems to receive their presents on different days!
In Denmark, it’s not Santa Claus who brings your presents but Julemanden (Christmas man) who lives in Greenland and not the North Pole.
However, he does look very similar to Santa Claus, with a beard and red hat, and he is also helped by elves. So I’ll let you decide whether or not you think this is just Santa Claus, in a Danish disguise. He also brings present to children on Christmas Eve, so he has plenty of time to deliver presents to English speaking countries on the 25th!
Catholicism is still very important in Portugal, and their traditions reflect this. On Christmas eve families celebrate the birth of Jesus by gathering around the Crèche, which you might know as a nativity scene.
Midnight mass is also a very important part of Portuguese Christmas celebrations, which you will also find in other Catholic countries and communities.
Being a predominantly Catholic country, it’s no surprise that Catholicism plays a heavy role in Christmas celebrations in Italy as well. And this all starts on the 8th of December. This is the date that is believe to have been the immaculate conception of Mary, and therefore this is the day that Christmas celebrations can begin. On this day you will see the Christmas decorations going up, the songs beginning and the season truly starting.
Italians avoid meat on Christmas eve and midnight mass is a very popular part of Christmas, just like in many other Catholic countries.
The Christmas season in Sweden ends a lot later than Christmas seasons in other countries. But being further north, winter must seem to last a lot longer too so we can definitely sympathise with that. Their Christmas season doesn’t end until the 13th of January.
Also like a lot of European countries, the main Christmas celebrations occur on Christmas Eve rather than on the 25th.
Shèngdàn jié kuàilè!
First of all, Christmas is not actually a traditional holiday in China and families don’t tend to celebrate it. However, with the influx of western media and culture, Christmas is creeping into China. In the major cities, you will find Christmas decorations and lots of schools will do some form of Christmas celebration or activity.
The only problem is, if you’re working in China, you won’t get Christmas day off as it isn’t actually a holiday there. However, if you work in an international school, then they tend to have both western and Chinese holidays.
Wherever you are in the world and however you’re celebrating Christmas this year we wish you a truly Merry Christmas.
If your traditions are different to the ones we’ve mentioned earlier then feel free to add them into the comment section. We would love to know how you celebrate Christmas in your country and how you say Merry Christmas.