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An Irish Merry/Happy Christmas!

Irish Merry Christmas

Nollaig Shona Daoibh (NULL-eg HUH-uh DEE-iv)! Happy Christmas to You All!

The Christmas Day is coming really fast (Lá Nollag – Law NULL-ug), and we figured we’d celebrate by giving you some Christmas-related words and phrases to liven up your celebration!

We also decided to make this post a little earlier in the week than usual, to give you time to practice. So read on if you want to learn how to say Happy Christmas in Irish (or other holidays!).

Merry/Happy Christmas in Irish

Whether your preferred greeting in English is “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Christmas,” in Irish it’s Nollaig Shona (NULL-eg HUH-nuh).

At the beginning of this post, you saw the proper way to say “Merry/Happy Christmas” in Irish to more than one person at a time:

  • Nollaig Shona Daoibh (NULL-eg HUH-nuh DEE-iv): Literally “Happy Christmas to You (plural).

If you’re only speaking to one person, you’d say:

  • Nollaig Shona Duit (NULL-eg HUH-nuh ditch)

A more elaborate greeting, often seen on cards, is:

  • Nollaig Faoi Shéan is Faoi Shonas Duit/Daoibh (NULL-eg fwee hayn iss fwee HUH-nuhss ditch/DEE-iv): “A Prosperous and Happy Christmas to You.”

Wait a minute: What if I don’t celebrate Christmas?

The answer to this question, of course, depends on what you DO celebrate.

Terms from other languages typically aren’t translated, so if you want to wish someone a “Happy Hanukah” (or “Chanukah,” or whatever way you may spell it), you’d substitute “Hanukah” for Nollag/Nollaig in the greetings above.

Because foreign words are typically treated as being grammatically masculine, you’d also remove the letter “h” from shona the first greeting, making it:

  • Hanukah Sona Duit/Daoibh (Hanukah SUN-uh Ditch/DEE-iv)

(Bitesize subscribers can learn more about the “why” of this in Lesson: Nouns: Gender – Part 1, Lesson: Nouns: Gender – Part 2, Lesson: Nouns: Gender – Part 3, and Lesson: Initial Mutations.)

If the Winter Solstice (December 21) is more your thing, you can use the Irish word for “solstice”: grianstad (GREE-un-stad), which is also grammatically masculine:

  • Grianstad Sona Duit/Daoibh (GREE-un-stad SUN-uh ditch/daoibh).

What if I don’t want to be that specific? How about “Happy Holidays” in Irish or “Season’s Greetings”?

People often ask if there’s an Irish equivalent to the American “Happy Holidays” or “Season’s Greetings” – Something that is either “a-religous” or that encompasses the multiple holidays that are celebrated at this time of year.

Probably the closest you’ll find in Irish is:

  • Beannachtaí na bhFéilte Duit/Daoibh (BAN-ukh-tee nuh VAYL-cheh ditch/DEE-iv): “Blessings of the Holidays to You.”

If you’re only talking about one holiday, but want to be more “generic,” you can say:

  • Beannachtaí na Féile Duit/Daoibh (BAN-ukh-tee nuh FAY-leh ditch/DEE-iv): “Blessings of the Holiday to You.”

You’ll also occasionally see:

  • Beannachtaí an tSéasúir (BAN-ukh-tee un TAY-soor): Literally “Blessing of the Season,” but the jury is still out on whether the use of the Irish word for “season” is appropriate in this context, or whether it’s Béarlachas (an English form that has been imported into Irish, often inappropriately).

Some other seasonal terms

Here are some other terms you may find useful, regardless of how or what you celebrate at this time of year:

Wintery terms:

Sneachta (SHNAKH-tuh): Snow

Sioc (shuk): Frost

Oighear (EYE-ur): Ice

Caithnín Sneachta (KAA-neen SHNAK-tuh): Snowflake

Fear Sneachta (Fahr SHNAKH-tuh): Snowman

General Christmassy terms

Crann Nollag (kran NULL-ug): Christmas Tree

Um Nollag (Uhm NULL-ug): Christmastime

Oíche Nollag (EE-hyeh NULL-ug): Chrismas Eve

Lá Nollag (Lah NULL-ug): Christmas Day

Nollaig Mór (NULL-ig mohr): Another name for Christmas Day.

Daidí Nollag (DAD-ee NULL-ug): Father Christmas/Santa Claus

Bronntanas (BRUN-tuh-nuss): Gift/present. Bronntanais (BRUN-tuh-nish): Gifts/presents.

Féirín (FAYR-een): Another word for gift/present, especially appropriate for a small,”stocking-stuffer” gift. Féiríní (FAYR-een-yee): Gifts/presents.

Bréagán (BRAY-gahn): Toy. Bréagáin (BRAY-gaw-in): Toys

Cuillean (K(w)ILL-un): Holly

Drualas (DROO-uh-luss): Mistletoe

Coinneal (K(w)IN-yul: Candle. Coinnle (K(w)IN-leh): Candles

Soilse (SOL-sheh): Lights

Religious Christmassy Terms

Íosa (EE-uh-ssuh): Jesus

Muire (MWIR-uh): Mary*

Maighdean (MY-jun): Virgin (Maighdean Mhuire (MY-jun WIR-uh): Virgin Mary).

Seosamh (SHOH-soo): Joseph

Asal (ASS-ul): Donkey

Stábla (STAH-bluh): Stable

Aoirí (EER-ee): Shepherds

Saoithe (SEE-hyeh): Wisemen

Aingeal (AYN-gul): Angel. Aingil (AYN-gil): Angels

Réalta (RAYL-tuh): Star (also sometimes réal (rayl) or réalt (raylt)).

(* Note: This special name, Muire, is only used for Mary the mother of Jesus. For ordinary girls and women named “Mary” in English, Máire (MY-ruh or MOY-uh) is used.)

However You Celebrate…

Beannachtaí na féile is fearr leat ó Bitesize Irish Gaelic! (BAN-ukh-tee nuh FAY-luh iss far lat oh Bitesize Irish Gaelic!): “Blessings of the holiday you prefer, from Bitesize Irish Gaelic!”

And here’s a holiday gift from us to you:

A Traditional Irish Christmas E-book by Jennifer Carroll

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