How to Say "Merry Christmas" in French - 'Tis the Season Around the World!
The holidays are around the corner, and now is a greater time than ever to brush up on some of your vocabulary. Every country and language has their own unique way of wishing holiday cheer, and it's great to pick up some words or phrases to share with your friends or colleagues this season. If you're wondering how to say “Merry Christmas” in French or other holiday sayings, you've come to the right place.
If you want to learn more French vocabulary and useful phrases, take a look at our French Frequency Dictionary series. You’ll find 10,000 most common French words there listed by frequency and alphabet. Learning words by frequency is a fantastic way to expand your vocabulary effectively. 10,000 example sentences translated into English are a great bonus, too!
“Mery Christmas” in French
Like all sayings, there's a plentitude of variations and idioms to go along with it. If you're looking for the most common way to say “Merry Christmas” in French, then your best bet is Joyeux Noël.
- Joyeux Noël (Merry Christmas) is pronounced [ʒwajø nɔɛl] in the IPA transcription.
This phrase translates directly as “Merry Christmas.” You might recognize joyeux from phrases like joyeux anniversaire (happy birthday) or joyeuses Pâques (happy Easter). The word joyeux, meaning happy, is a frequent word in French for holiday phrases and other well wishes.
A common sentence with joueux Noël might be something like J'espère que vous avez un joyeux Noël.
- J'espère que vous avez un joyeux Noël. – I hope you have a merry (happy) Christmas.
Notice that you could interchange Noël with any holiday, so it's quite a useful phrase to know. But what if you wanted to put the phrase as a question? For example, if you wanted to ask someone if they had a merry Christmas or not. For that, you could say Avez-vous eu un joyeux Noël?
- Avez-vous eu un joyeux Noël? – Did you have a merry Christmas?
Joyeux comes up in another variation for merry Christmas – this time, happy holidays. With the holiday season full of festivities and cheer, an easy way to wish your loved ones a merry Christmas and happy new year is to say joyeuses Fêtes (happy holidays). Notice that joyeux changes to joyeuses. This is a great general phrase that can be used for Christmas, New Year’s, and the entire holiday season.
- Joyeuses Fêtes – Happy Holidays, pronounced [ʒwajøz fɛt]
While you'll see Joyeuses Fêtes and Joyeux Noël scribbled out on Christmas cards and on social media, you might also encounter variations such as Bonnes Fêtes (happy holidays), or even bonne année (Happy New Year).
- Bonnes Fêtes – Happy Holidays [bɔn fɛt]
- Bonne Année – Happy New Year [bɔ na ne]
What's great is that these phrases can be used with each other. It's not uncommon to wish someone both a merry Christmas and a happy New Year at the same time. If we were to stick together joyeux Noël and bonne année, it's easier than you think. Add et between them, and you get:
- Passez un joyeux Noël et une bonne année! – Have a merry Christmas and a happy New Year!
Meaning of “Meilleurs Vœux”
We would be remiss, however, if we didn't mention the phrase meilleurs vœux (best wishes). This phrase is a unique one within French culture, and its meaning isn't as easily transcribed as other phrases, such as the ones we mentioned earlier.
To understand the meaning of meiulleurs vœux, you have to move beyond the translation and connect to its usage in French culture instead. While meiulleurs vœux at its surface means best wishes, it's used most often for the holiday season as a general way of wishing warmth and happiness to your friends and loved ones.
What's unique about this phrase, however, is that it's not exactly tied to Christmas. In fact, this phrase is used generally over the month of December and into January. While it's a perfectly acceptable way to wish someone happy holidays, it can also be used to give your best wishes for the New Year.
- Meilleurs vœux – Best Wishes [me jœr vø]
You might be scratching your head and saying, "I've seen meilleurs vœux before!" And maybe it had nothing to do with the holidays. That's completely correct! This phrase is also used to wish someone to get well soon, such as in "Meilleurs vœux de promt rétablissment" (best wishes for a speedy recovery. It's not uncommon in the business world either, so chances are you might be seeing this phrase well past January!
Other Christmas-Related Expressions
Christmas, Noël, is easy enough (especially since it ties to English), but what about some other aspects of Christmas like Christmas Eve or even Father Christmas? Knowing words like joyeux, bonne, and Noël are key to navigating more specific phrases in French.
If you can pick apart the phrase or sentence knowing some of these key words, then you'll have a better chance of deciphering its meaning on the spot. Here are a few more Christmas terms – can you guess what they are without looking at the definition?
- Père Noël – Father Christmas
- Le Jour de Noël – Christmas Day
- Veille le Noël or Réveillon de Noël – Christmas Eve
- Un sapin/abre de Noël – Christmas Tree
The Meaning of Réveillon
Here's a less common word that you might encounter in the holiday season. Réveillon is the French word for awakening, but make no mistake, your dear friend isn't inviting you to wake up! Réveillon is a lovely, classic French tradition of a large, wonderful feast held on Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve.
The awakening meaning of the word stems from the old tradition to have a meal after Christmas midnight mass. Now, réveillon is a time for families and friends to get together in the hours before Christmas and celebrate the cheer with delicious foods and the best of what French cuisine has to offer. If you ever get a chance to celebrate réveillon in France, or perhaps make it a tradition in your home, it's a marvelous part of both Christmas festivities and French culture.
- Réveillon – Literally “Awakening,” a large feast on Christmas Eve or New Year's Eve
Taking the Plunge
Approaching a language as beautiful and diverse as French is a daunting task for some people. If you're one of those people who get lost in complicated workbooks and are unsure where to start on the path to true, masterful fluency, there's no need to worry. You'd be surprised at just how much it takes to learn a language like French as if it were your own, and it doesn't take learning long sheets of hundreds of words.
French is a language accessible to beginners no matter their age. French, like our language, revolves itself around key words and phrases that appear regularly in conversation and writing. Picking up these common parts of language is the first step to becoming fluent in a new language and transforming your personal relationships, travel experiences, and career.
Immersion for the Beginner
There are a multitude of other ways to express your happiness and well wishes this holiday season that we didn't cover today. One of the most effective ways to learn the ins and outs of a language, and what native speakers say most often, is to absorb it naturally.
Watching television programs or films in French is a gateway to hearing commonly used words. Music is another great way to stimulate your brain and broaden your vocabulary. You might even pick up on some slang!
By immersing yourself in French culture, you can fast track your language learning journey to fluency. You'll find that just listening to native speakers alone will improve your pronunciation and comprehension of spoken French. Best of all, if you've never been to France or don't have any other French speakers in your city, then watching or listening to native speakers will help you feel more confident in your trip abroad.
You can learn French vocabulary effectively if you focus on the context it is used in. Our unique French Frequency Dictionaries offer you 10,000 most common French words together with example sentences translated into English. This way, you'll get familiar with French grammar, sentence structure, and countless useful expressions and idioms.
Learning French Naturally
With the number of different ways for how to say “Merry Christmas” in French, you can't go wrong. All of the phrases mentioned are commonly said and will be received with mutual cheer. You might even indicate a close association with French culture with a phrase such as meiulleurs vœux. The holidays are a perfect time for friends and family to celebrate together, and a great opportunity to take some time off and build your vocabulary, too.
Another interesting thing you'll find is just how similar French is to English. Many words in French share the same root or have strong similarities to words in English. There are also strong similarities in how sentences are structured and other grammatical components.
Many language learners discover that once they've taken the plunge and started their studies, a large portion of it begins to come naturally them. Words will flow and sentences might arrange themselves without much thought.
Or, you might hear any of the phrases mentioned today and their meanings will click. Have you heard of any of these phrases before? Which ones do you use most in your daily conversations? Try mixing and matching expressions at your next holiday gathering to suit the occasion.
If someone wishes you happy holidays but you aren't sure how to reciprocate the greeting, don't forget that you can always say merci! As Christmas approaches near, now is a perfect time than ever to experience the French way of the holiday season.