The holiday season is here, and it’s high time to sing carols, decorate the Christmas tree, and send holiday greetings to your friends and family. So today, we are going to teach you a few necessary phrases for celebrating Christmas in France.
Even though France is a country with its own culture and traditions, the Christmas season here is very similar to that in many parts of our world. People go shopping for presents, you can hear Christmas carols everywhere, the houses are decorated with twinkling lights, and bakeries and restaurants are finally preparing delicious seasonal food, such as bûche de Noël (Yule log).
Do you want to practice your language skills and wish your friends and loved ones a Merry Christmas in French? If so, now is the best time to learn a few phrases for the upcoming holidays.
(By the way, do you want to know how to say “Merry Christmas” in German? Then check this article.)
“Merry Christmas” in French - Joyeux Noël
“Christmas” in French
Christmas in French is Noël, which comes from the Latin word natalis (“birth”). Just like many other Christmas-related words, this one refers to the birth of Christ.
This word might look complicated because of the ccent tréma (or umlaut) - two dots above the vowel e. But don’t worry - the tréma simply means that the vowel sound should be pronounced separately from the vowel that precedes it. The word Noël, is then pronounced as /noel/, if it wasn’t for tréma, it would sound like /nel/.
How to Say “Merry Christmas” in French
So how can you say “Merry Christmas” in French? It’s not complicated: Joyeux Noël ! Joyeux in French means “merry,” “happy,” or “joyous,” - and the French phrase is very similar to the English phrase “Joyous Christmas.” You can also note the word joyeux in many other greetings - for example, in the “Happy Birthday” wishes (Joyeux anniversaire !)
When sending someone holiday cards or wishing someone “Merry Christmas” in French, you can simply say Joyeux Noël ! However, if you want to create a full sentence with it, you can wish a person to have a Merry Christmas - Passe un joyeux Noël (which literally means “spend a happy Christmas.)”
Joyeux Noël !
Passe un joyeux Noël.
Spend a happy Christmas.
Variations of “Merry Christmas” in French
Of course, you don’t have to stick to simple greetings. Instead, you can play with the classic phrase and say, for example, Passe un très joyeux Noël ! (Have a very merry Christmas!)
Or make it a little more personal and say “I wish you a Merry Christmas” - Je vous souhaite (or je te souhaite) un joyeux Noël. Another option would be On te/vous souhaite un joyeux Noël or Nous te/vous souhaitons un joyeux Noël (We wish you a merry Christmas).
When it comes to Christmas Eve in France (la veille de Noël), there is no direct phrase you can use to wish “A merry Christmas Eve.” You can use the word réveillon here, which describes the traditional dinner held on Christmas Eve, and say “passe un bon réveillon.” Nevertheless, sticking to the traditional French Christmas wishes will be more common.
Passe un très joyeux Noël !
Have a very merry Christmas!
Je vous souhaite un joyeux Noël.
I wish you a Merry Christmas.
Nous te/vous souhaitons un joyeux Noël.
We wish you a Merry Christmas.
What About the New Year Greetings?
You might already be familiar with the French word an, meaning “year”, and its longer form, année. We have already explained the difference between these two forms in our previous article, but here’s a short reminder: an is used when we mean a year in general, and année - when we’re focusing on the duration of this period of time.
To wish someone a happy New Year, you can say “Bonne année” - here, the longer form is used because you wish the recipient a good year all year long, when you use the shorter form it means, “it’s a good year at this moment.”
As you might have already guessed, if you want to wish someone “Merry Christmas and Happy New Year,” you would say “Joyeux Noël et Bonne Année.”
Bonne année !
Happy New Year!
Joyeux Noël et Bonne Année !
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!
A Fun New Year’s Greeting
Another useful French greeting you might want to learn is Bonne année, bonne santé. The translated phrase means “Happy New Year, good health,” and it’s a kind thing to say.
Bonne année, bonne santé.
Happy New Year, good health (literally).
Just remember to not use it on formal occasions - it’s better to say it in the company of close friends.
Wishes for Hanukkah in French
The holiday season is not just about Christmas and New Year, though. Many people in France and all over the world celebrate Hanukkah, also known as the Festival of Lights.
If you want to send someone your kind wishes for Hanukkah in French, you can say Joyeux Hanoukka. Note that here spelling can differ, so you might also see versions such as Joyeux Hanoucca, Joyeux Hanouka, Joyeux Hannukah, and so on.
Joyeux Hanoukka !
“Happy Holidays” in French
Some people don’t celebrate Christmas, others might not be fans of New Year, and you might not know which holiday greeting to say to a certain person. In that case, you can always stick to the classic “Happy Holidays”, Bonnes fêtes.
Another option is Meilleurs vœux, which is one of the most interesting holiday phrases. Most of the year, it simply means “best wishes,” but with the holiday spirit around, it turns into “Season’s greetings.” You can also use this phrase on its own or create a sentence with it, for example, Meilleurs vœux pour la nouvelle année (Best wishes for the new year).
Bonnes fêtes !
Meilleurs vœux pour la nouvelle année !
Best wishes for the new year!
Other Holiday Wishes in French
Of course, there are many holiday wishes other than “Happy New Year” and “Merry Christmas” in French. Below, you will find a few less traditional and more personal examples.
- Je vous souhaite d’excellentes fêtes de fin d’année (I wish you excellent end of year celebrations). It’s better to use this one on formal occasions, for example, when wishing colleagues happy holidays.
- Passez de bonnes fêtes de fin d'année (Have good end-of-year holidays.)
- Je vous souhaite une année 2022 magique (I wish you a magical 2022.)
- Vœux de bonheur (Wishes of happiness.) This is a great phrase to write on Christmas cards.
- Passez un joyeux Noël en famille (Have a Merry Christmas with your family.)
- Je vous souhaite d’excellentes fêtes ! (I wish you an excellent holiday season.)
Holiday Season in France - Traditions
Christmas celebrations in France are often similar to those in America. However, there are many unique French Christmas traditions that you might want to learn more about.
French culture is strongly connected to Christianity, which is why you can see many religious traditions during the winter holiday season. For example, you can often find a crèche near the Christmas tree - a miniature reconstruction of the nativity scene.
As for the Christmas tree, it’s called a pine in French - le sapin de Noël. It is usually decorated with garlands, Christmas balls, candles, ribbons, and Christmas characters.
Santa Claus in France is called Père Noël (literally, Father Christmas). The kids put their boots near the fireplace or the Christmas tree, waiting for Père Noël to fill them with presents on Christmas Eve.
And when it comes to traditional French Christmas food, we can’t forget about the bûche de Noël, a Christmas log. This cake shaped like a log is the most famous French Christmas dessert. Originally, it comes from the tradition of keeping the biggest and sturdiest log to burn on Christmas Eve.
Joyeux Noël et Bonne Année !
Now that you know the most important Christmas vocabulary in the French language, it’s time to put it to practice. Start writing the Christmas cards and thinking about the Christmas greetings for your friends and family, decorate le sapin de Noël and sing traditional French Christmas carols. Make this holiday season as French as possible!
And if you want to learn a little more, check other articles on our blog or download the Langster app, where you can read exciting stories in French and immerse yourself in this beautiful language.
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you!