Learn how to say Merry Christmas in Italian and Italian festive words and expressions you will need this holiday season!
Christmas is a big celebration in Italy.
During the December festivities, Christmas trees glisten, families gather to break bread together and presents get exchanged, usually with an abundance of festive toasts and season greetings.
If you are in Italy over Christmas, chances are you will be invited to at least one Christmas gathering and, in that case, knowing how to say Merry Christmas in Italian will be helpful.
Even if this is all you can say, the effort won’t go unnoticed!
Previously, we have shared Italian Christmas traditions, which you may find useful as well.
Today, we will learn how to say happy Christmas in Italian and a few other words and sentences that can be helpful if spending Christmas in Italy.
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When is it appropriate to say Merry Christmas in Italian?
Christmas in Italy officially starts on the 8th of December.
This is the day when the Catholic Church celebrates the Immaculate Conception of Mary and it is a national holiday.
Traditionally, this is also the day when families put up the Christmas tree.
The last day of Christmas in Italy is the 6th of January, the epiphany.
It is appropriate to wish someone a merry Christmas between the 8th and the 25th of December.
After this date, you usually wish a happy new year (buon anno) or buone feste (happy holidays).
How to say Merry Christmas in Italian
To wish someone a Merry Christmas in Italian, we say Buon Natale!
Buon is the short form of the word ‘buono’ = good.
This is a standard word we use in Italy for wishes and you may recognize it from other expressions such as Buon Compleanno (Happy Birthday in Italian) or Buon Anno (Happy New Year).
Natale is Italian for Christmas.
The word comes from the Latin expression ‘dies natalis’: this literally means ‘day of birth’ and, in origin, has nothing to do with Christmas as such.
Dies Natalis used to only mean ‘birthday’, a use of the word we still see in the expression Natale di Roma (Rome’s Birthday).
However, the importance of this Christian recurrence grew to such an extent, Natale became quickly the official name for Christmas in Italy!
Like Merry Christmas, you can hear Buon Natale in several contexts:
When toasting – when lifting your glass for a toast in the festive season, you would say ‘Buon Natale’
When offering someone a gift, you can say ‘Buon Natale’
You can also say Buon Natale as a way to part from someone: ‘A presto, Buon Natale!”
How to wish someone a Merry Christmas in Italian – pin this!
Before we go on learning more useful Italian festive expressions, you may want to save this lesson for later.
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How to respond to someone saying Buon Natale to you
If someone says Buon Natale your way, you can respond:
Grazie, Buon Natale a te! Thank you, Merry Christmas to you too
Grazie, altrettanto, buone feste! Thank you to you too, happy holidays!
Buon Natale! Merry Christmas
Other expression to wish someone a happy Christmas in Italian
Buon Natale is your passe-partout sentence to wish someone a happy Christmas in Italian, but there are other expressions you may find useful to know.
Auguri / Tanti Auguri = lit ‘wishes’.
Auguri is a very common word in Italian used to send good wishes to someone, may it be for Christmas, a birthday or simply a wish for a good outcome on a new venture they may have just announced.
You use it in the same way you would say ‘congratulations’ or ‘all the best’.
During the Christmas season, this is a common way to wish someone a happy Christmas and holiday season in general.
Buone Feste! This literally means happy festivities and you can hear it or find it written on Christmas cards.
This is a useful expression to bundle Christmas, New Year and the epiphany greetings all into one and it can also be handy if you are not sure of the religious background of the person you are sending wishes to.
Buon Anno! This is the standard way to wish someone a happy new year.
You can easily find this in writing with Buon Natale, in expressions such as ‘Buon Natale e Felice Anno Nuovo’, common on seasonal cards.
Other useful words related to Christmas in Italy
Albero di Natale = Christmas tree
Decorazioni = decorations (for the Christmas tree or the table)
Palline di Natale = Christmas baubles
Regalo / regalo di Natale = present / Christmas present / CHristmas gift
Biglietto d’auguri = greeting card
Vigilia – Christmas eve
Messa di Mezzanotte: Midnight mass
Presepe = Nativity scene / crib
Brindisi = drinking toast – read here >>> our lesson on how to say ‘cheers’ in Italian.
Babbo Natale = Father Christmas / Santa
Notte di Natale = the night before Christmas (24th/25th December)
Pranzo di Natale = Christmas lunch
Giorno di Natale = Christmas day (25th of December)
Santo Stefano = St Stephen’s day / Boxing Day (26th of December)
Befana = Epiphany
Notte di Capodanno = New Years’ Eve
Elfi = Elves
Renne = raindeer
Slitta = sleigh
How to write a Christmas card in Italian
If you do not find yourself in Italy but still want to wish someone a happy Christmas in Italian, then knowing how to write Christmas wishes in Italian will come in handy.
Before you start your writing exercise however, it is useful to know that Christmas cards are much less common in Italy than they are abroad.
While it is usual, in Italy, to wish a happy Christmas also to people you are not usually in touch with, this is most commonly done over the phone or, now that smartphones are ubiquitous, by text message or WhatsApp chat.
Cards would not usually be exchanged between close friends nor posted to one another.
If you are abroad and usually send Christmas cards, however, you should most definitely keep your habit going: while we don’t usually send cards, we always love receiving them!
In that case, you may want to learn the following expressions:
Caro / Cara / Cari = Dear
Caro / Cara / Cari is the equivalent of the English word ‘dear’: caro is masculine singular (caro papa’, caro nonno, caro Marco), cara is feminine singular (cara mamma, cara nonna, Cara Francesca) and cari is the plural (Cari Elisa e Matteo)
After this opening, you can simply write your greeting of choice:
Buon Natale = Happy Christmas
Tanti Auguri di Buon Natale e felice anno nuovo = many wishes for a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year
Auguri per un sereno Natale e prospero anno nuovo = wishes for a serene Christmas and a prosperous new year
Cari Elisa e Matteo, Buon Natale e Felice anno nuovo a voi e alla vostra famiglia! = Dear Elisa and Matteo, merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you and your family!
Please note: as we have learnt in our article on how to say I love you in Italian, we do not use ‘ti amo’ before our signature on a greeting card! Instead, you can say something such as ‘con affetto’ (similar to: with love) or simply sign with your name.
You can find here >>> more examples on to wish someone a happy new year in Italian.
I hope you enjoyed this quick Italian lesson and it helped you feel confident when wishing someone a merry Christmas and a happy new year!
Learning Italian before a trip? Then do not miss our free guide to travelers’ Italian