Merry Christmas in Spanish: Words and Phrases for the Holidays
How do you say “Merry Christmas” in Spanish? Feliz navidad, of course. But you probably knew that already, thanks to the catchy pop song of the same name. This post delves into the essential Spanish vocabulary for not only Christmas but also Hanukkah and Kwanzaa.
December is the most festive month of the year because it contains a plethora of holidays across varied religions and cultures. Just about anywhere in the world, it’s a month to spend quality time with family and friends, connect with our faith or culture, exchange gifts, and indulge in special foods and treats.
“Merry Christmas” in Spanish: Vocabulary
Knowing how to wish someone a merry Christmas in Spanish definitely comes in handy around Christmas time, but don’t stop there! Here’s some more vocabulary to take the conversation further.
Merry Christmas in Spanish: General Terms
- La Navidad, El día de Navidad – Christmas
- La Nochebuena – Christmas Eve
- El árbol de Navidad – Christmas tree
- Los regalos – presents
- El brindis – toast
- Papá Noel – Santa Claus
- La chimenea – chimney
- El trineo – sleigh
- Los renos – reindeer
- El villancico – Christmas carol
- La tarjeta de Navidad – Christmas card
- La nieve – snow
- Las campanas – bells
- El muñeco de nieve – snowman
- El elfo – elf
Merry Christmas in Spanish: Common Greetings
- ¡Feliz navidad! – Merry Christmas!
- ¡Felices fiestas! – Happy holidays!
- Que pases lindo esta navidad. – Have a nice time this Christmas.
- ¡Te deseo una feliz navidad! – I wish you a Merry Christmas!
- ¡Mis mejores deseos para esta navidad! – Best wishes for this Christmas!
Merry Christmas in Spanish: Decorations
- Los adornos – decorations
- La guirnalda – garland
- El muérdago – mistletoe
- Las luces – lights
- Las velas – candles
- La estrella – star
- El cascanueces – nutcracker
- El calcetín navideño – stocking
- El oropel – tinsel
Merry Christmas in Spanish: Comida
- El turrón – nougat
- El mazapán – marzipan
- Las galleta – cookies
- Los nueces – nuts
- Las castañas – chestnuts
- El pavo – turkey
- El champán – champagne
- El vino – wine
- La sidra – cider
- El ponche de huevo – eggnog
- El chocolate caliente – hot cocoa
- El bastón de caramelo – candy cane
- La casa de jengibre – gingerbread house
Merry Christmas in Spanish: Religious Terms
Even though Christmas has become a commercial event observed by people of diverse belief systems, it was originally a Christian holiday. In Spanish-speaking countries, where the majority of the population is Christian (mostly Catholic or evangelical), the everyday language is full of religious terminology—especially around Christmastime.
That’s why it’s useful to learn some of the religious Christmas vocabulary in Spanish, whether you are religious yourself or not.
- ¡Que Dios te bendiga! – God bless you!
- Bendiciones – blessings
- El niño Jesús – Baby Jesus
- La virgen María – Virgin Mary
- La iglesia – church
- La misa – Mass
- La Misa de Gallo – midnight Mass
- ¿A qué hora es la misa? – What time is the mass held?
- El belén / pesebre – nativity scene
- El ángel – angel
Merry Christmas in Spanish: Verbs and Adjectives
- Desear – to wish
- Decorar – to decorate
- Celebrar – to celebrate
- Regalar – to gift
- Abrir los regalos – to open the presents
- Alegre – jolly
- Travieso/a – naughty
- Agradable – nice
- Tranquilo/a – peaceful
Merry Christmas in Spanish: Family and Classroom Activities
1. Sing Christmas Carols
Learning Spanish through music is fun and effective for both children and adults. Many Spanish Christmas carols (villancicos) are translated from English, such as “Noche de Paz” (Silent Night) and “El niño del tambor” (The Little Drummer Boy). Others were written originally in Spanish and feature new melodies and lyrics.
Catchy, simple, repetitive villancicos are ideal for children, for example:
- “A las doce de la noche” (At Midnight)
- “Campana sobre campana” (Bell over Bell)
- “Mi Burrito Sabanero” (The Donkey from the Savannah)
2. Illustrate a Christmas Carol
Encourage your kids or students to illustrate a song once they’re familiar with it. Hang their artwork up to motivate your students and reinforce the vocabulary you worked on. They will love seeing their drawings on the wall!
3. Act Out Las Posadas
Many Spanish-speaking countries observe Las Posadas (also known as La Novena), a nine-day celebration from December 16 to 24. The holiday is traditionally celebrated with a performance involving two groups: an outside group that represents Mary and Joseph called los peregrinos (the pilgrims) and an inside group that represents the lodge (los posaderos).
The outside group goes from house to house pidiendo posada (asking for lodging) until one house lets them in. Each group sings its part. IThe act ends with praying inside the house and/or a party with sweets and regalitos (little gifts) for the children.
Teach your kids or students the Posadas song and discuss its meaning. If you’re a teacher, divide your class in two groups: the peregrinos and the posaderos. The peregrinos will sing outside the door until the inside group lets them in.
Learn more details from our blog post The Latin American Tradition of Las Posadas to get the full scoop on this inspiring tradition!
Happy Hanukkah in Spanish
The Jewish festival of Janucá lasts for eight days and falls between late November and the end of December each year. The dates vary each year because Hanukkah begins on the 25th of Kislev, the ninth month in the Hebrew calendar.
Use these words and phrases to talk about Hanukkah en español:
- ¡Feliz Janucá! – Happy Hanukkah!
- La Fiesta de las luminarias – Festival of Lights
- La Fiesta de la dedicación – Feast of Dedication
- La moneda – coin
- La peonza – dreidel
- Ocho días – eight days
- Judío – Jewish
- Kosher – kosher
- La januquiá – special nine-branched menorah for Hanukkah
- La menorá – regular seven-branched menorah
- El milagro – miracle
- La oración – prayer
- El rabino – rabbi
- El sabbat – Sabbath
- La estrella de David – star of David
- Una tortita de patata – potato pancake, latke
Check out these fun resources for Hanukkah lessons and activities in the Spanish classroom.
Celebra Hanukkah con un cuento de Bubbe, a story of three Jewish siblings looking forward to eating their grandmother’s delicious latkes as part of the Hanukkah celebration. (“Bubbe” is the Yiddish word for grandmother.)
But there aren’t enough latkes for everyone! Will they all remember Bubbe’s story of generosity, or are the latkes too tempting to pass up?
Happy Kwanzaa in Spanish
Kwanzaa is a non-religious holiday that was created in 1966 by a professor named Maulana Karenga at California State University. The name comes from Swahili and means the “first fruits” of harvest. One of its objectives is to restore roots in African culture.
Kwanzaa has become a cultural touchstone for approximately 28 million people worldwide. Its three symbolic candle colors are black, green, and red, representing respectively the people, their struggle, and hope for the future. People who observe Kwanzaa reflect on the Nguzo Saba with seven principles from December 26 to January 1.
|Collective work and responsibility||el trabajo y la responsabilidad colectivo||Ujima|
|Cooperative economics||la economía cooperativa||Ujamaa|
|Purpose||el objetivo y dirección||Nia|
Use these words and phrases to talk about Kwanzaa in Spanish:
- África – Africa
- El africano / la africana – African
- Afro Estadounidense – African-American
- El patrimonio – heritage
- La cosecha – harvest
- La esperanza – hope
- La humanidad – humanity
- La meditación – meditation
- El renacimiento – rebirth
- El respeto – respect
- La lucha – struggle
- El cáliz de la Unidad – Unity cup
Read Celebra Kwanzaa con Boots y sus gatitos, the story of an African-American family that gets together to celebrate Kwanzaa. Will the celebration be spoiled because their beloved cat, Boots, is missing? The family sets off on a quest to find Boots by putting the seven values celebrated in Kwanzaa into practice.
Why and how are you celebrating your holiday this month? Leave a comment below and let me know!
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