How to Say Merry Christmas in German

Learn German holiday greetings and phrases

Christmas in Germany
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Whether you're celebrating Christmas in a German-speaking country or you want to bring a few old-world traditions home, these German phrases and traditions will make your holiday truly authentic. The first two sections below contain general German Christmas and New Year's greetings followed by the English translations. The subsequent sections are grouped alphabetically, with the English word or phrase printed first, followed by the German translations.

Study the tables, and you'll be saying Fröhliche Weihnachten!—Merry Christmas—as well as many other German holiday greetings in no time.

German Christmas Greetings

German Greeting

English Translation

Ich wünsche

I wish

Wir wünschen

We wish

dir

you

Euch

you all

Ihnen

you, formal

deiner Familie

your family

Ein frohes Fest!

A joyous holiday!

Frohe Festtage!

Season's Greetings!/Happy Holidays!

Frohe Weihnachten!

Merry Christmas!

Frohes Weihnachtsfest!

[A] joyous Christmas celebration!

Fröhliche Weihnachten!

Merry Christmas!

Ein gesegnetes Weihnachtsfest!

A blessed / joyous Christmas!

Gesegnete Weihnachten und ein glückliches neues Jahr!

A blessed Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Herzliche Weihnachtsgrüße!

Best Christmas greetings!

Ein frohes Weihnachtsfest und alles Gute zum neuen Jahr!

A joyful Christmas (festival) and best wishes for the New Year!

Fröhliche Weihnachten!

Merry Christmas!

Zum Weihnachtsfest 

besinnliche Stunden!

[We wish you] Contemplative / reflective hours during the Christmas celebration!

Ein frohes und besinnliches Weihnachtsfest!

A Merry and Reflective/Thoughtful Christmas!

German New Year’s Greetings

German Saying

English Translation

Alles Gute zum neuen Jahr!

Best wishes for the New Year!

Einen guten Rutsch ins neue Jahr!

A good start in the New Year!

Prosit Neujahr!

Happy New Year!

Ein glückliches neues Jahr!

Happy New Year!

Glück und Erfolg im neuen Jahr!

Good fortune and success in the New Year!

Zum neuen Jahr Gesundheit, Glück und viel Erfolg!

Health, happiness, and much success in the New Year!

Advent to Baumkuchen

Advent (Latin for "arrival, coming") is the four-week period leading up to Christmas. In German-speaking countries and most of Europe, the first Advent weekend is the traditional beginning of the Christmas season when open-air Christmas markets—Christkindlmärkte—appear in many cities, the most famous ones in Nuremberg and Vienna.

Baumkuchen, listed below, is a "tree cake," a layered cake whose interior resembles (Christmas) tree rings when cut.

English Word of Phrase

German Translation

Advent calendar(s)

Adventskalender

Advent season

Adventszeit

Advent wreath

Adventskranz

Angel(s)

der Engel

Basel chocolate balls

Basler Brunsli

Baumkuchen

der Baumkuchen

Candles to Crèche (Manger)

Candles, with their light and warmth, have long been used in German winter celebrations as symbols of the sun in the dark of winter. Christians later adopted candles as their own symbols of the "Light of the World." Candles also play an important role in Hanukkah, the eight-day Jewish "Festival of Lights."

English Word or Phrase

German Translation

Carol(s), Christmas carol(s): 

Weihnachtslied (-er)

Carp

der Karpfen

Chimney

der Schornstein

Choir

der Chor

Crèche, manger

die Krippe

Christmas to Crescent

Christ Child translates into German as das Christkind or das Christkindl. The moniker "Kris Kringle" is actually a corruption of Christkindl.

The word came into American English via the Pennsylvania Germans, whose neighbors misunderstood the German word for the bringer of gifts. With the passage of time, Santa Claus (from Dutch Sinterclaas) and Kris Kringle became synonymous. The Austrian town of Christkindl bei Steyr is a popular Christmas post office, an Austrian "North Pole."

English Word or Phrase

German Translation

Christmas

das Weihnachten, das Weihnachtsfest

Christmas bread/cake, fruit cake

der Stollen, der Christstollen, der Striezel

Christmas card(s)

Weihnachtskarte

Christmas Eve

Heiligabend

Christmas market(s)

Weihnachtsmarkt, Christkindlesmarkt

Christmas pyramid

die Weihnachtspyramide

Christmas tree

der Christbaum, der Tannenbaum, der Weihnachtsbaum

Cinnamon star(s)

Zimtstern: Star-shaped, cinnamon-flavored Christmastime cookies

Cookies

Kekse, Kipferln, Plätzchen

Cradle

Wiege

Crib

Krippe, Kripplein

Crescent(s)

Kipferl

Father Christmas to Glass Ball

In the 16th century, Protestants, led by Martin Luther, introduced "Father Christmas" to replace Saint Nicholas and to avoid the Catholic saints. In the Protestant parts of Germany and Switzerland, Saint Nicholas became der Weihnachtsmann ("Christmas Man"). In the U.S., he came to be known as Santa Claus, while in England children look forward to a visit from Father Christmas.

English Word of Phrase

German Translation

Father Christmas (Santa Claus)

der Weihnachtsmann: 

Fir tree

der Tannenbaum (-bäume)

Fruit bread (Christmas bread

der Stollen, das Kletzenbrot

Garland

die Girlande

Gift(s)

das Geschenk

Gift giving

die Bescherung

Gingerbread

der Lebkuchen

Glass ball

die Glaskugel

Holly to Ring 

In pagan times, holly—die Stechpalme—was believed to have magical powers that kept evil spirits away. Christians later made it a symbol of Christ's crown of thorns. According to legend, the holly berries were originally white but turned red from Christ's blood.

English Word or Phrase

German Translation

Holly

die Stechpalme

king(s)

der König

Three Kings (Wise Men)

die Heiligen Drei Könige, die Weisen

Kipferl

das Kipferl: An Austrian Christmas cookie. 

Lighting

die Beleuchtung

Outdoor lighting

die Außenbeleuchtung

Lights

die Lichter

Mistletoe

die Mistel

Marzipan

das Marzipan (almond paste candy)

Midnight mass

die Christmette, Mitternachtsmette

Mulled, spiced wine

der Glühwein ("glow wine")

Myrrh

die Myrrhe

Nativity

die Krippe, Krippenbild, die Geburt Christi

Nut(s)

die Nuss (Nüsse)

Nutcracker(s)

der Nussknacker

Organ, pipe organ

die Orgel

Ornaments, ornamentation| 

die Verzierung, der Schmuck

Organ, pipe organ

Die Orgel

Poinsettia

die Poinsettie, der Weihnachtsstern

Reindeer

das Rentier 

Ring [bells]

erklingen, klingeln

Saint Nicholas to Wreath

Saint Nicholas is not Santa Claus or the American "Saint Nick." Dec. 6, the Feast of St. Nicholas, is the day upon which the original Bishop Nicholas of Myra (today in Turkey) is commemorated and is the date of his death in the year 343. He was later granted sainthood. The German Sankt Nikolaus, dressed as a bishop, brings gifts on that day.

According to legend, it was also Bishop Nicholas who created the Christmas tradition of hanging stockings by the fireplace. The kindly bishop is said to have thrown bags of gold for the poor down the chimney. The bags landed in stockings that had been hung by the fire to dry. This Saint Nicholas legend may also partly explain the American custom of Santa coming down the chimney with his bag of gifts.

English Word or Phrase

 German Translation

Saint Nicholas

 der Sankt Nikolaus

Sheep

 das Schaf (-e)

Shepherd(s)

 der Hirt (-en), der Schäfer

Silent Night

 Stille Nachte

Sing

 singen

Sled, sleigh, toboggan

 der Schlitten

Snow (noun)

 der Schnee

snow (verb)

schneien (It's snowing - Es schneit)

Snowball

der Schneeball

Snowflake

die Schneeflocke

Snowman

der Schneemann

snow sled/sleigh

der Schlitten

snowy

schneeig

snow covered 

schneebedeckt 

Stable, stall

der Stall

Star(s)

 der Stern

Straw star(s)

der Strohstern (Strohsterne): A traditional Christmas decorations made of straw.

Three Wise Men, Three Kings, Magi

die Heiligen Drei Könige, die Weisen

Tinsel

das Lametta, der Flitter

Toy(s)

das Spielzeug

the Wise Men, the Magi

die Weisen, die Heiligen Drei Könige

wreath

der Kranz