How To Wish People ‘Happy Holidays’ Around The World

Here are season’s greetings from 13 different languages.
December 18, 2020
How To Wish People ‘Happy Holidays’ Around The World

‘Tis the season to unironically say “’tis,” and that’s not the only change to our lexicon that’s caused by the holidays. Through the month of December, greetings change to reflect the time of year. And it’s not only in the English-speaking world. If you’re traveling or have friends in other countries, you’ll want to learn the right way to wish people “happy holidays” around the world.

If you’ve lived in the United States over the past few decades, though, you’ll know that delivering season’s greetings can be a political lightning rod. Anyone who has worked in a service job has probably had their “Happy holidays!” met with a very pointed “Merry Christmas.” This is a pretty distinctly American phenomenon, though. In the United Kingdom, for example, “Merry Christmas” is very much the norm. And some other languages don’t even have a phrase that directly translates to “Happy holidays,” as noted below. If you’re ever unsure what to say to someone, though, you can always let them take the lead.

Here’s how to wish people “happy holidays” around the world (or in 13 languages, at least), with the translations for “Happy Holidays,” “Merry Christmas,” and “Happy New Year.”

Wishing People Happy Holidays In 13 Languages

Spanish

Happy holidays! — ¡Felices fiestas!
Merry Christmas! — ¡Feliz Navidad!
Happy New Year! — ¡Feliz Año Nuevo!

French

Happy holidays! — Bonnes fêtes !
Merry Christmas! — Joyeux Noël !
Happy New Year! — Bonne année !

German

Happy holidays! — Frohe Feiertage!
Merry Christmas! — Frohe Weihnachten!
Happy New Year! — Frohes neues Jahr!

Italian

Happy holidays! — Buone feste!
Merry Christmas! — Buon Natale!
Happy New Year! — Buon anno!

Portuguese

Happy holidays! — Boas Festas!
Merry Christmas! — Feliz Natal!
Happy New Year! — Feliz ano novo!

Norwegian

Happy holidays! — God ferie!
Merry Christmas! — God jul!
Happy New Year! — Godt nytt år!

Note: The phrase God ferie! really means something like “Have a good vacation” in Norwegian,  but it’s the closest the language has to the English use of “Happy holidays!” You’re far more like to hear God jul! around the country during December.

Danish

Happy holidays! — Glædelig højtid!
Merry Christmas! — Glædelig jul!
Happy New Year! — Godt nytår!

Note: Our Danish didactics expert Peter Sørensen translated “Happy holidays,” but notes that there is no Danish equivalent to the English phrase. Most of the time, you’ll just hear “Merry Christmas!” instead. He also notes that the Danish Foreign Ministry sent English-language holiday cards that featured the phrase “Season’s Greetings” between 1998 and 2010, but there was never a Danish-language card that was religion-neutral.

Swedish

Happy holidays! — God helg!
Merry Christmas! — God Jul!
Happy New Year! — Gott nytt år!

Note: God helg! is somewhat archaic, so you’re unlikely to hear it from actual Swedes. And Sweden also has other common seasonal greetings. During the couple of days after Christmas, you might hear God fortsättning!, meaning “Good continuation!” And closer to New Year’s Eve, there’s also Gott slut!, meaning “Good ending!”

Dutch

Happy holidays! — Fijne feestdagen!
Merry Christmas! — Vrolijk kerstfeest!
Happy New Year! — Gelukkig nieuwjaar!

Polish

Happy holidays! — Wesołych Świąt!
Merry Christmas! — Wesołych Świąt Bożego Narodzenia!
Happy New Year! — Szczęśliwego Nowego Roku!

Russian

Happy holidays! — Весёлых праздников! (Vesëlykh prazdnikov!)
Merry Christmas! — С Рождеством! (S Rozhdestvom!)
Happy New Year! — С Новым годом! (S Novym godom!)

Indonesian

Happy holidays! — Selamat berlibur! 
Merry Christmas! — Selamat Natal! 
Happy New Year! — Selamat tahun baru!

Turkish

Happy holidays! — İyi tatiller!
Merry Christmas! — İyi Noeller!
Happy New Year! — Mutlu yıllar!

Learn a new language this holiday season.
Author Headshot
Thomas Moore Devlin
Thomas grew up in suburban Massachusetts, and moved to New York City for college. He studied English literature and linguistics at New York University, but spent most of his time in college working for the student paper. Because of this, he has really hard opinions about AP Style. In his spare time, he enjoys reading and getting angry about things on Twitter. He's spent a lot of time trying to learn Spanish, and has learned a little German.
Thomas grew up in suburban Massachusetts, and moved to New York City for college. He studied English literature and linguistics at New York University, but spent most of his time in college working for the student paper. Because of this, he has really hard opinions about AP Style. In his spare time, he enjoys reading and getting angry about things on Twitter. He's spent a lot of time trying to learn Spanish, and has learned a little German.

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