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How to Say ‘Merry Christmas’ in French

How to Say Merry Christmas in French

Do you know any ways to wish someone a ‘Merry Christmas’ in French? FrenchPod101 brings you easy-to-learn translations and the correct pronunciation of French Christmas phrases!

Christmas is the annual commemorative festival of Christ’s birth in the Western Christian Church. It takes place on December 25th and is usually celebrated with much food and fanfare! However, not all cultures celebrate Christmas. In some countries, Christmas is not even a public holiday! However, many countries have adapted Christmas and its religious meaning to tally with their own beliefs, or simply in acknowledgment of the festival’s importance to other cultures. If you want to impress native French speakers with culturally-appropriate Christmas phrases and vocabulary, FrenchPod101 will teach you the most important ways to wish someone a ‘Merry Christmas’ in French!

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Table of Contents

  1. How to Celebrate Christmas in France
  2. Holiday Greetings and Wishes
  3. Must-Know Christmas Day Vocabulary
  4. Twelve Days of Christmas
  5. Top 10 Christmas Characters
  6. How FrenchPod101 Can Help You

1. How to Celebrate Christmas in France

Christmas Words in French

Like those in many other countries, French people celebrate Christmas on December 25th. Indeed, for a long time before it became a secular state, France had a Catholic government. This is why many celebrations and public holidays have religious origins. For French people, even for non-believers, Christmas remains a very important celebration. In this lesson, you will learn how to celebrate it French-style!

Now, before we get into more detail, do you know the answer to this question?

What special meal is served at Christmas, only in Provence?

If you don’t already know, you’ll find out a bit later. Keep reading.

During the holiday period, many Christmas markets, or marchés de Noël, are held in different French cities. The most famous one takes place in Strasbourg, in Alsace. French people can buy Christmas decorations there, as well as regional products and food, including cakes. People also drink hot wine, or vin chaud. This is a hot drink, generally made with red wine and spices, that is drunk during winter.

In France, Christmas is a family holiday. It’s an occasion to see many family members including parents, grandparents, and cousins. French people celebrate Christmas in their home, which they decorate to mark the occasion. The Christmas tree, or sapin de Noël, is an indispensable element in this. Whether real or artificial, it dominates the living room. The presents are put in front of it, and it is decorated with Christmas ornaments and garlands.

The colors most often used by French people to decorate their houses are red, gold, silver, and green.

Christmas Eve, or Réveillon de Noël, is celebrated on December 24. A real feast is served. Traditionally, it is made up of a Christmas turkey, or dinde de Noël, with a log cake for dessert. French people also eat oysters or snails. As for the presents, they are given out at either midnight, after the meal, or the next morning. French children believe in Santa Claus or Père Noël and it’s not rare to have a family member dress up in order to give the kids their gifts.

The most well-known French Christmas song is “Petit Papa Noël,” which means “Little Santa Claus.” It was written by Raymond Vinci and the music was composed by Henri Martinet. It tells the story of a little boy talking to Santa Claus.

Now it’s time to answer our quiz question!

In Provence, a Christmas meal is served that’s different from what you’ll find in other regions of France. It’s the thirteen desserts. Traditionally, they represent Jesus and the twelve apostles. The thirteen desserts are made up of dry fruits, fresh fruits, chocolates, and other sweets.

2. Holiday Greetings and Wishes for the Holiday Season

Holiday Greetings and Wishes

1- Merry Christmas!

Joyeux Noël !

Do you know how to say ‘Merry Christmas’ in French? Learn here how to pronounce it perfectly! ‘Merry’ means to be joyful, to celebrate and generally be in good spirits. So, with this phrase you are wishing someone a joyful, celebratory remembrance of Christ’s birth!

2- Happy Kwanzaa!

Joyeux Kwanzaa!

Surprise your African-American, or West African native friends with this phrase over the Christmas holidays! Kwanzaa is a seven-day, non-religious celebration, starting on Dec 26th each year. It has its roots in African American modern history, and many people celebrate both Kwanzaa and Christmas!

3- Have a happy New Year!

Bonne année!

In countries where Christmas is not officially celebrated, but a Gregorian calendar is observed, this would be a friendly festive-season wish over New Year.

4- Happy Hanukkah!

Joyeux Hanukkah!

Hanukkah is the beautiful Hebrew festival over November or December each year. It is also called the ‘Festival of Lights’ and is celebrated to commemorate the Jewish freedom of religion.

5- Have a great winter vacation!

Bonnes vacances d’hiver!

This is a good phrase to keep handy if someone doesn’t observe any religious festival over the Christmas holidays! However, this will only be applicable in the Northern hemisphere, where it is winter over Christmas.

6- See you next year!

À l’année prochaine!

Going away on holiday over Christmas season, or saying goodbye to someone about to leave on vacation? This would be a good way to say goodbye to your friends and family.

7- Warm wishes!

Amicalement

An informal, friendly phrase to write in French Christmas cards, especially for secular friends who prefer to observe Christmas celebrations without the religious symbolism. It conveys the warmth of friendship and friendly wishes associated with this time of year.

8- Happy holidays!

Bonnes vacances!

If you forget how to say ‘Merry Christmas!’ in French, this is a safe, generic phrase to use instead.

9- Enjoy the holidays!

Profitez des vacances!

After saying ‘Merry Christmas’ in French, this would be a good phrase with which to wish Christmas holiday-goers well! It is also good to use for secular friends who don’t celebrate Christmas but take a holiday at this time of the year.

10- Best wishes for the New Year!

Meilleurs vœux pour la nouvelle année!

This is another way of wishing someone well in the New Year if they observe a Gregorian calendar. New Year’s day would then fall on January 1st.

3. Must-Know Christmas Day Vocabulary

Christmas is associated with many traditions and religious symbols in multiple countries across the world. It originated centuries ago in the West with the birth of Christianity, and the celebrations are often embedded with rich cultural significance. So, by now you know how to say Merry Christmas in French! Next, learn pertinent vocabulary and phrases pertaining to Christmas, as well as how to pronounce them correctly. At FrenchPod101, we make sure you sound like a native speaker!

1- Christmas

Noël

This is the French word for ‘Christmas’. Most happy Christmas wishes in French will include this word!

2- Snow

neige

In most Northern-hemisphere countries, Christmas is synonymous with snow, and for Christmas, the snowman is often dressed as Santa Claus.

3- Snowflake

flocon de neige

Snowflakes collectively make up snow. A single snowflake is small, white, light like a feather and icy cold! When put under a microscope, the snowflake reveals itself to have the most beautiful, symmetrical patterns. These patterns have become popular Christmas decorations, especially in Western countries.

4- Snowman

bonhomme de neige

As you guessed - a snowman is only possible to build if it is snowing! What a fun way to spend Christmas day outside.

5- Turkey

dinde

Roast turkey is the traditional main dish on thousands of lunch tables on Christmas day, mainly in Western countries. What is your favorite Christmas dish?

6- Wreath

couronne

Another traditional Western decoration for Christmas, the wreath is an arrangement of flowers, leaves, or stems fastened in a ring. Many families like to hang a Christmas wreath outside on their houses’ front doors.

7- Reindeer

renne

Reindeer are the animals commonly fabled to pull Santa Claus’ sled across the sky! Western Christmas folklore tells of Father Christmas or Santa Claus doing the rounds with his sled, carrying Christmas presents for children, and dropping them into houses through the chimney. But who is Santa Claus?

8- Santa Claus

Père Noël

Santa Claus is a legendary and jolly figure originating in the Western Christian culture. He is known by many names, but is traditionally depicted as a rotund man wearing a red costume with a pointy hat, and sporting a long, snow-white beard!

9- Elf

lutin

An elf is a supernatural creature of folklore with pointy ears, a dainty, humanoid body and a capricious nature. Elves are said to help Santa Claus distribute presents to children over Christmas!

10- Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer

Rudolph le renne au nez rouge

‘Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer’ is a Christmas song based on an American children’s story book with the same name. Rudolph is one of Santa’s reindeer. The song became more famous than the book, and can still be heard playing in many shopping malls over Christmas time across the globe!

11- North Pole

pôle nord

The cold North Pole is where Santa Claus is reputed to live with his reindeer!

12- Sled

traîneau

A sled is a non-motorised land vehicle used to travel over snow in countries where it snows a lot, and is usually pulled by animals such as horses, dogs or reindeer. This one obviously refers to Santa’s sled! Another word for sled is sleigh or sledge.

13- Present

cadeau

Gift or present giving is synonymous with Christmas Eve and the greatest source of joy for children over this festive time! This tradition signifies that Christ’s birth was a gift to mankind, but not all people who hand out presents over Christmas observe the religious meaning.

14- Bell

cloche

On Christmas Day, or Christmas Eve, many religious celebrants enjoy going to church for a special sermon and Christmas rituals. The start of the sermon is often announced with bells or a bell, if the church has one. For this reason, the sound of ringing bells is often associated with Christmas Day.

15- Chimney

cheminée

The chimney is the entrance Santa Claus uses to deliver children’s presents on Christmas Day, according to folklore! Wonder how the chubby man and his elves stay clean…?!

16- Fireplace

cheminée

In most countries where it snows, Christmas is synonymous with a fire or burning embers in houses’ fireplaces. Families huddle around its warmth while opening Christmas presents. Also, this is where Santa Claus is reputed to pop out after his journey down the chimney!

17- Christmas Day

jour de Noël

This is the official day of commemorative celebration of Christ’s birth, and falls each year on December 25.

18- Decoration

décoration

Decorations are the colourful trinkets and posters that make their appearance in shops and homes during the Christmas holiday season in many countries! They give the places a celebratory atmosphere in anticipation of the big Christmas celebration. Typical Christmas decorations include colorful photographs and posters, strings of lights, figurines of Santa Claus and the nativity scene, poinsettia flowers, snowflakes and many more.

19- Stocking

bas

According to legend, Santa Claus places children’s presents in a red stocking hanging over the fireplace. This has also become a popular decoration, signifying Christmas.

20- Holly

houx

Holly is a shrub native to the UK, and parts of Europe, Africa and Asia. It is characterised by glossy, spiny-toothed leaves, small, whitish flowers, and red berries. Ironically, its significance for Christmas relates to Christ’s crucifixion and suffering rather than his birth. However, the leaves’ distinctive shape and image have become popular Christmas decorations.

21- Gingerbread house

maison en pain d’épice

According to legend, the gingerbread house synonymous with Christmas is related to Christ’s birth place, Bethlehem. Bethlehem literally means ‘House of Bread’. Over centuries, it has become a popular treat over Christmas time in many non-religious households as well.

22- Candy cane

bâton de sucre d’orge

According to folklore, Christmas candy canes made their appearance first in Germany in the 16th century. A choir master gave children the candy canes to suck on in church in order to keep them quiet during the Christmas sermon! Apparently, the candy is shaped like a cane in remembrance of the shepherds who were the first to visit the baby Jesus. Today, like gingerbread houses, they are still a popular sweet over the festive season!

23- Mistletoe

gui

Mistletoe is a parasitic plant that grows on certain trees. In the Middle Ages, it was believed that the mistletoe has magical powers, and could protect a household from evil if hung above a door during December. The belief didn’t last but the habit did, and the mistletoe is another popular Christmas decoration!

4. Twelve Days of Christmas

Twelve Days of Christmas

Wow, you’re doing extremely well! You know how to wish someone a Merry Christmas in French, and you learned pertinent vocabulary too! The Twelve Days of Christmas is not very well known in modern times, so, you’re on your way to becoming an expert in Christmas traditions and rituals. Well done!

The Twelve Days of Christmas, also known as Twelvetide, is a traditional festive period of 12 days dedicated to celebrate the nativity of Christ. Christmas Day is, for many who observe Twelvetide, the first day of this period.

‘The Twelve Days of Christmas’ is also a popular Christmas song about a series of gifts given on each day of Twelvetide. According to experts, these gifts were created as a coded reference to important symbols in the Christian church. Here is a list of those gifts mentioned in the song! Do you recognise them?

5. Top 10 Christmas Characters in American Culture

Top 10 Christmas Characters

This is fantastic, you know how to explain almost everything about Christmas in French! However, do you know the most popular Christmas characters in American culture? Your knowledge will not be complete without this list.

6. FrenchPod101 Is One Of The Best Online Language Schools Available!

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We don’t just say this - we can prove it! Geared to your personal needs and goals, we have several learning paths from which to choose. From French for Absolute Beginners to Advanced French, lessons are designed to meet you where you are, and increase your language abilities in fun, easy and interactive lessons! Mastering a new language has never been this easy or enjoyable.

We have over a decade of experience and research behind us, and it shows! With thousands of audio and video lessons, detailed PDF lessons and notes, as well as friendly, knowledgeable hosts, FrenchPod101 is simply unbeatable when it comes to learning correct French. Plenty of tools and resources are available when you study with us. New lessons are added every week so material remains fresh and relevant. You also have the option to upgrade and enjoy even more personalised guidance and services. This is a sure way to fast-track your learning!

So, this Christmas, why don’t you give yourself a present and enroll in FrenchPod101? Or give an enrollment as a present to a loved one. It will be a gift with benefits for a whole lifetime, not just over Christmas!

French Argot Lesson #2: Five Words To Say “L’Argent”

It is always useful to know the slang for “money” in a foreign language, if only not to get ripped off and to understand when people talk about what is in your wallet…

 So many different ways to say “money” in French! Those greedy French.

 Before we get to those words I would like to mention a French argot specialist. His name is Michel Audiard and even if you probably never heard this name before, you need to know that he is one of France’s pride.

Michel Audiard (Born in 1920, died in 1985) was a famous screenwriter who is known for his acid, humorous, and “argotique” writing. And, if you happened to watch movies written by Michel Audiard, you surely came across  a multitude of French money-related slang.

If you would like to check out one of his movies, I recommend Les tontons flingueurs (translated as ” Crooks in Clover” or “Monsieur Gangster” in English). This movie was made in 1963 and is a melange of gangster movie (yes, France has gangsters, too) and comedy. Probably 90% of the French have seen it at least once: it’s a classic. Now, the colloquial French in it might limit your comprehension at some parts, however with perseverance (and subtitles) you will enjoy it as much as any French person.

 And…one scene is ENTIRELY in English! There it is:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8fRuExSRaBA&feature=related

 Anyway…I got carried away. Now is the time for some serious slang.

 You probably know that the standard word for “money” in French is  L’argent. Here are our five alternate (and much cooler) words:

 - Le fric (the most commonly used one)

- L’oseille (feminine)

- L’artiche (masculine - rare but its sound is particularly typical of the argot)

- Le blé  (literally this means “wheat” )

- Le pognon (comes from the word poignée, “fistful” )

 Hope you enjoyed!

 

 

French Bazaar: Oh no! French Slang! Argot Lesson #1

Have you ever heard of the word l’argot?

You might have heard of it as being the French slang. Well, it is true to some extent. But there is more to l’argot than just being slang.

 Today we’ll introduce you to one argot French word. But before we do, let’s talk about what l’argot really is.

The initial meaning appeared in the XVIIth century in France to generally designate professional thieves, beggars and  bohemians.  This group of people was literally called l’argot.

The word evolved to later designate the language used by this group of people. Just like any social group, they would use a vocabulary that would only exist among themselves. Now, having their own language not only identified each other as a group, it also allowed thieves and assassins to plan their crimes without being understood.

 Overtime, the word l’argot ended up designating every language specific to a certain social group of people. Therefore, there is today l’argot parisien (”Parisian Slang”), l’argot de la Bourse (”Stock Market Slang”), l’argot du journalisme (”Journalism Slang”), etc.

Here in the French Bazaar, we will mostly introduce you to l’argot parisien, not because we are Paris centered, but because this specific slang is the most used among French people. The Parisian Slang is also the one that directly comes from the original thief and bohemian’s argot we mentioned above.

Enough with history! What is our first word? It is…

UNE ALOUF (noun, feminine) - A MATCH

(Standard French: Une allumette)
It is very easy to use, you can simply say :

Tu as une alouf?  “Do you have a match?”

Or, in the plural form: Tu as des aloufs?  “Do you have any matches?”
My Dad (I know I keep talking about my Dad, but that’s only because he speaks the most eccentric French), back when he was a smoker, used to ask for aloufs all the time.

Our next word will start with “B”! We will see you around the corner of the bazaar…

French Bazaar: A French Pirate Party? Arrr…

A l’abordage! Aboard! Or, as Captain Hook says : “To the ship!”
For the first time in France, the very young Parti pirate de France (Pirate Party of France) will present a candidate for a legislative election. On September 20th, Maxime Rouquet, 23 years old, will run for deputy in the Yvelines’ 10th circumscription’s election, in the hopes of being seated in the National Assembly among the experienced veterans of the political profession.
Now, what is the French Pirate Party? Should we be worried? Should we watch our river banks? Should we avoid the Mediterranean coast? No, no, no, there is no such thing as boat looting on the coasts of the country that established human rights.

As you might have guessed, the Parti pirate de France is more involved in Internet and copyright issues than in stealing goods or yelling “Arrr” at Peter Pan. In fact, their political program focuses on Internet users’ rights and on reforming the patent system in France. It was founded in 2006 and mostly counts computer programmers and music professionals among its members.

This party might first look like one of those shallow movements that die soon after they are born. However, after 3 years of existence, they seem to lean toward an actual political strategy and plan on meeting the other European parties in order to strengthen their relationship and grow their numbers.

The Parti pirate de France hopes to give an alternate political response to how “music distribution must evolve”. One of their main concerns is preventing laws like the HADOPI* law from being passed as “it is technically not well packaged and doesn’t respect the presumption of innocence” Maxime Rouquet says.

Maxime Rouquet will mainly be running against Jean-Frédéric Poisson, candidate for the Assembly under the colors of the UMP (Union pour un Mouvement Populaire - French conservative party) and favorite candidate for the Yvelines legislative elections.

While pirate parties in France had flourished only to disappear shortly after they started (there were six of them at some point!), the Parti pirate de France seems to be decided to stick around.

Something to keep an eye on…

*”Law favoring the diffusion and protection of creation on Internet”. It was adopted on May 12, 2009 by the French National Assembly.

French Bazaar: L’OuLiPo et la langue française - A Post for our Advanced Students

Here is a post for our advanced students. It is going to be in French only. If you feel like you need a translation, please leave a comment and we’ll fix that!

Voici un article pour nos étudiants avancés.

Ou plutôt…voici un jeu pour nos nos étudiants avancés!

 

Vous avez déjà certainement entendu parler du Logo Rallye. Non? Là, vous vous dites: mais qu’est-ce qu’elle raconte?

Le Logo Rallye est un jeu littéraire inventé par le mouvement de l’OuLiPo – Ouvroir de Littérature Potentielle. Et là vous vous dites: L’Ouli-quoi??

Commençons donc par le commencement.

En 1960, Raymond Queneau, poète et écrivain français, fonde avec François Le Lyonnais, un mathématicien, français lui aussi, l’Ouvroir de Littérature Potentielle.

Ce groupe réunit des écrivains (comme Italo Calvino et Georges Perec, par exemple) mais aussi des mathématiciens qui proposent de construire une nouvelle littérature, une littérature expérimentale.

L’aspect le plus connu de cette “littérature potentielle” est l’écriture sous contrainte. Ecrire sous contrainte, cela signifie s’imposer des règles strictes pour écrire un texte, un poème, ou même un roman. Ces messieurs de l’OuLipo pensaient (et pensent toujours – L’OuLiPo existe encore aujourd’hui!) que les contraintes sont un moteur pour l’imagination. Les règles provoquent la créativité.

Un exemple? D’accord, un exemple.

 La méthode n+7 est un des exercices d’écriture sous contrainte les plus connus. En voici le principe:

- Prenez un texte déjà écrit, si possible célèbre, si possible un classique.

- Maintenant prenez un dictionnaire unilingue.

- La contrainte d’écriture (la règle, si vous préférez) est la suivante:

Vous allez changer tous les adjectifs de votre texte par d’autres adjectifs que vous trouverez dans le dictionnaire. Mais attention, pas au hasard!! Vous allez remplacer chaque adjectif par le septième adjectif qui suit dans le dictionnaire.

Imaginez que l’adjectif à remplacer est “vert”. Eh bien, prenez votre dictionnaire au mot “vert”, et allez jusqu’au septième adjectif placé après “vert”. Maintenant remplacez “vert” par le nouvel adjectif. Et renouvelez l’opération pour tous les adjectifs de votre texte.

Le résultat peut être extrêmement drôle, en particulier si le texte est très classique.

Est-ce que cela vous donne une idée de ce que l’OuLiPo* propose?

Bien sûr, leur travail est bien plus vaste et complexe. Mais ce serait trop long…

 Maintenant, voici le jeu que je vous propose aujourd’hui, appelé le Logo-Rallye:

Le Logo-Rallye, c’est facile. Je vais vous donner une liste de cinq mots, les cinq premiers mots qui me viennent à l’esprit. Et votre travail, c’est d’écrire, le plus vite possible et sans réfléchir, un texte de quelques lignes qui comprend ces cinq mots. Attention: gardez les mots dans l’ordre où je les donne!

Le principal ici est de NE PAS réfléchir, d’écrire très vite et de ne pas corriger ensuite. C’est ça qui rend le jeu drôle. Ne trichez pas!

Quand vous avez écrit votre texte, copiez-le dans la section “comments” de cet article, pour le partager avec nous. C’est parti!

- Voiture

- Enragé

- à genoux

- Gérard Depardieu

- Inutile.

 

* Un conseil: le livre de Raymond Queneau, Exercices de styles, est une bonne illustration de ce qu’il est possible de faire en écrivant sous contrainte.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

First Item in the Bazaar: a French Idiom!

Our idiom today is:

Il n’y a pas le feu au lac”

“No need to rush”

 

Growing up in Southern France I would hear that idiom a lot.

Why Southern France? Because that’s where things go slowly. That’s where the turtle is considered one of the fastest animals…that’s where you take the time to enjoy every minute of your free time while doing pretty much nothing. That’s where impatient Parisians are driven crazy.

 

See? I am from Southern France and it takes me forever to get to the point here!

 

But wait…What does “Il n’y pas le feu au lac” mean exactly?

 

It literally means “The lake is not on fire”, which I find to be a very clever way to say “No need to rush”. Don’t you think it’s clever? I wonder who came up with that one. Someone clever. “The lake is not on fire” implies that there is no emergency, no reason to rush since the lake is not and will NEVER set on fire. You get the idea.

 

In which context should you use this idiom?

 

Well, you generally say “Il n’y a pas le feu au lac” when you feel rushed or pushed by someone. It’s a way to let this person know that he or she is being impatient without a good reason. You are telling this person “Slow down, slow down.”

 

The first time I heard this come out of my father’s mouth, I replied: “Which lake?”

I was not being clever or ironic. I was four.

 

French Bazaar!

French style, French idioms, French theatre, French fries, French politics, French chauvinism, French cinéma, French language, French strikes, French hair products, French news, French Antiques…

There will be French.

1 post a week on the FrenchPod101.com blog is how we’ll start it.

1 post a week, donc. Some will deal with linguistic matters, some will discuss your future trip to France, some will let you  know about French events, some will share anecdotes à la française, some will fill up your bookshelf with new literature…

Oh, that’s right: who am I?

I am Virginie. And oh yes I am French. I am the one who says But of course! and Sacrebleu!. I am the French Ambassador to FrenchPod101.com.

But…who are you?

Well you are the curious one. The one who craves cheese updates, the one who wants to understand why French people are so French, the one who wants to know what is going on in Mirepoix, the one who lives in Vladivostok but still wants to learn French, the one who wants to impress his French in-laws with idioms, the one who wants to gossip about the French president’s wife.

Anyway…we’ll get to know each other.
Now… all these posts will need to find a breathe, to come to life. They will need attention. Like princesses. They will depend on you, on what you think, on what you’ve experienced, on what you want to hear about…in short they will need you to comment on them. They will need friends. Don’t we all?

So…welcome to the French Bazaar! We dusted it today for your first visit, and we certainly hope you’ll find that precious nugget of information that you’ve always wanted! Now is time to chiner!