How to Say Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, and Happy New Year in German!
When the calendar turns to the holiday season, it's time to talk about holiday greetings! This year Christmas and Hanukkah even take place at the same time. So here you've got all the holiday greetings you need for this week & next!
But wait! It's still Advent--it isn't even the Christmas season yet!
Advent! - die Vorweihnachtszeit
In the US we fever and shop and practically race our way to Christmas and Advent is often left up to the church calendar. However in Germany it's also cultural--Advent ist nicht Weihnachten! Advent is the 4 weeks leading up to Christmas--it's the time of waiting for Jesus' birth.
Words to know:
der Advent - Advent
die Vorweihnachtszeit - the pre-Christmas time. a/k/a Advent.
What to write in a card:
Ihnen eine schöne Adventszeit / Dir eine schöne Adventszeit
ein Lichtlein brennt!
Erst eins, dann zwei, dann drei, dann vier,
dann steht das Christkind vor der Tür!
German Folk Poem
Christmas / Weihnachten:
Christmas begins on December 25th and lasts until January 6th, or Heilige drei Könige, the day the Three Kings arrived. These are the 12 Days of Christmas--yes, that song. So up until the 25th it's been Advent, and now it's Christmas--so for Germans, they don't wish one another Merry Christmas until it's Christmas. Or perhaps just prior, if you know you're not going to see that person again until after Christmas.
Just last week I received an email from a friend in Germany--keep in mind it was the 3rd Sunday of Advent--and he wrote:
Nun wünschen meine Frau und ich dir eine schöne Advents- und Weihnachtszeit
because he won't see or have time to write to me again before Christmas. So he's wishing me a lovely Advent aaand a lovely Christmastime. (And I'm hoping to find 15 peaceful minutes to write him back before Christmas!)
What to say/write:
Frohe Weihnachten! - Merry Christmas!
Frohes Fest! - also Merry Christmas!
Fröhliche Feiertage! - Happy Holidays!
Hanukkah / Chanukka:
Last year Judaism in German was featured on this blog and I hope you do check out the article if you haven't yet! It's entitled "Judaism and Hanukkah in German" and there are TWO sets of flashcards for you to download & print out: one on Judaism in general and another specifically on Hanukkah. It has been a really popular post so I hope you're learning allll the vocabulary words from it!
Hanukkah occurs at the same time as Christmas this year! It's from December 24th to January 1st, so there will be loads of celebrating going on in the next two weeks.
What to say:
Frohes Chanukka! - Happy Hanukkah!
New Year's Eve & Day / Sylvester und Neujahr:
Sylvester! The one night (or morning) of the year that Germans are allowed, for exactly ONE hour, to set off fireworks without a permit. And boy, do they rock it! The precious hour is from Mitternacht bis 1 Uhr morgens (midnight until 1 am) on New Year's Day and people save up all year for this. Fireworks are only available to be purchased for a short time period in December and nothing is available again until next year and the Germans really know how to take advantage of this.
One year I didn't have any fireworks so I just walked outside and stood on the sidewalk in the neighborhood I was living in and enjoyed 360º panoramic view of fireworks of every color & shape you could imagine. Das war einfach herrlich!
Germans are also SO GOOD at remembering whom they've already said "Frohes neues Jahr!" to (which really should be UNESCO Cultural Heritage, too, but hey that's just me), and I was astounded at how many people would greet one another around January 20th and they would STILL be saying "Frohes neues Jahr!" to one another. Schon erstaunlich! So don't be surprised if somebody greets you this way all the way at the end of January.
Words to know:
das Jahr - the year
das Sylvester - New Year's Eve
das Neujahr - New Year
What to say:
These three are separated out by the person/people you're speaking to.
Sie (formal/höflich): Kommen Sie gut ins neue Jahr!
du (informal): Komm gut ins neue Jahr!
ihr (you guys/you y'all): Kommt gut ins neue Jahr!
Einen guten Rutsch! - literally "Have a good slide [into the new year]!"
Guten Rutsch! - "Have a good slide!"
Frohes neues Jahr! - Happy New Year!
Frohes Neues! - Happy New [year]! - slang.
Ein glückliches neues Jahr! - A happy New Year!
These good wishes and greetings are an important slice of German culture. Write them to your German friends, your German teacher, email them to your classmates from German class, to that German exchange student from high school that you found online. That's what it's all about, after all, communicating with other folks.
Also wünsche ich Ihnen frohe Weihnachten, frohes Chanukka,
und einen guten Rutsch ins neue Jahr!
Auch wünsche ich Ihnen alles erdenkliche Gute für das kommende Jahr!
Ich freue mich sehr, dass Sie hier sind.
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