How to Say Merry Christmas in German

Weihnachtsgrüße - Christmas Greetings!

Germany Christmas
Visitors gather at the annual Christmas market on Domplatz square in Erfurt, Germany. Sean Gallup / Getty Images

German Christmas and New Year's Eve Greetings

Ich wünsche... / Wir wünschen...
I wish... / We wish...
  dir (you)...  euch (you all)...
  Ihnen (you, formal)...
  deiner Familie (your family)...

  Ein frohes Fest! - Frohe Festtage!
  A joyous holiday! - Season's Greetings!/Happy Holidays!

  Frohe Weihnachten! - Frohes Weihnachtsfest!
  Merry Christmas! - [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!

Suggested German New Year’s Greetings

  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!

 

 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.

A Is for Advent (der Advent)

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 being those in Nuremberg and Vienna.

Most stores and shops in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland are open weekends and evenings during Advent. - In Austria the 's' is often dropped in Advent-words (as in Adventzeit or Adventkalender). 

Other related words include:

  • Advent calendar(s) r Adventskalender (-)
  • Advent season e Adventszeit
  • Advent wreath r Adventskranz

Angel(s) | der Engel

B Is for Baked Goods

Basel chocolate balls | Basler Brunsli: A sweet confection made with chocolate, almonds, and hazelnut; a Christmas treat.

Baumkuchen | der Baumkuchen:  "Tree cake" is a layered cake whose interior resembles (Christmas) tree rings when cut.

C Is for Candles (die Kerze) 

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

Carol(s), Christmas carol(s) s Weihnachtslied (-er)

Carp (n.der Karpfen (-): Carp is considered a Christmas or New Year's delicacy in many parts of Germany.

Chimney | der Schornstein

Choir | der Chor

Crèche, manger | die Krippe

Christ Child | das Christkind, das Christkindl: The word "Kris Kringle" is 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."

Christmas das Weihnachten (sing., pl.), das Weihnachtsfest

Christmas bread/cake, fruit cake (n.) der Stollender Christstollender Striezel (dial.)

Christmas card(s) e Weihnachtskarte (-n)

Christmas Eve r Heiligabend

Christmas market(s) r Weihnachtsmarkt (-märkte), r Christkindlesmarkt

Christmas pyramid | die Weihnachtspyramide (-n): Originally from the Erzgebirge region of Germany, the wood or rope pyramid was the "poor man's Christmas tree." Today it is a popular Christmas decoration in many parts of Germany, usually made with candles and bells that ring as the heat from the candles turns a wooden rotor at the top.

Christmas tree | der Christbaumder Tannenbaumder Weihnachtsbaum: The first Christmas tree to decorate the inside of the White House was put up by US President Franklin Pierce in 1856. (German immigrants brought the custom to America.) In England Queen Victoria's husband, Prince Albert (1819-1861) of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, helped popularize the Christmas tree and other German Christmas customs.

Cinnamon star(s) r Zimtstern (-e) - Star-shaped, cinnamon-flavored Christmastime cookies

Cookies (pl.Kekse, Kipferln, Plätzchen

Cradle, crèche e Krippe, s Kripplein, e Wiege

Crescent(s) s Kipferl (-n) - Also see: cookies, vanilla crescent(s) Vanillekipferl(n)

F Is for Father Christmas, Santa Claus | der Weihnachtsmann

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.

Fir tree | der Tannenbaum (-bäume): Originally, most German Christmas trees were fir trees (Tannenbäume). Over the years, as the percentage of fir trees in German forests dropped, spruce trees (Fichtenbäume) became more prevalent.

But today the word Tannenbaum is still synonymous with "Christmas tree."

Fruit bread, Christmas bread | der Stollendas Kletzenbrot (an Alpine rye bread containing dried pears, Kletzen, and various spices)

G

Garland (n.) | die Girlande (-n)

Gift(s), present(s) | das Geschenk (-e)

Caution! The German word das Gift means "poison." If you are mailing a present to German Europe, you may wish to mark it with the German word Geschenk, in addition to "gift."

Gift giving, exchange of presents die Bescherung

Gingerbread der Lebkuchen

Glass ball die Glaskugel (-n)

H Is for Holly

In pagan times, holly die Stechpalme was believed to have magical powers that kept evil spirits away. The 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.

K

king(s) | der König (-e

Three Kings (Wise Men) | die Heiligen Drei Königedie Weisen

Kipferl(n) (n.) | das Kipferl (-n) - An Austrian Christmas cookie. 

Lighting | die Beleuchtung

Outdoor lighting | die Außenbeleuchtung

Lights | die Lichterelektrische Kerzen (electric candles)

M Is for mistletoe (die Mistel) 

Marzipan das Marzipan (almond paste candy)

Midnight mass die Christmette, Mitternachtsmette

Mulled, spiced wine der Glühwein ("glow wine")

Myrrh die Myrrhe

N

Nativity | die Krippes Krippenbilddie Geburt Christi

Nut(s) | die Nuss (Nüsse)

Nutcracker(s) | der Nussknacker (-)

O

Organ, pipe organ | die Orgel

Ornaments, ornamentation (tree, etc.) | die Verzierungder Schmuck

P Is for Poinsettia | die Poinsettieder Weihnachtsstern

Named for J.R. Poinsett (1779-1851), US ambassador to Mexico, who popularized the flower. In German it is also called "Christmas star." 

R

Reindeer | das Rentier (-e)

Ring [bells] (v.) | erklingen, klingeln

The Original Bad Santa

Ruprecht, also known as Knecht Ruprecht or Krampus, is a demonic figure who used to accompany St. Nicholas to punish bad children with his Rute (rod); based on mythical winter figures going back to pagan times. Rarely seen today. Also known as: Hans Muff, Krampus, or Nickel. In some parts of Germany, Ruprecht is good, just another Weihnachtsmann, and Krampus is the bad guy.

 

S Is for Saint Nicholas (der Sankt Nikolaus)

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. (Also see "Ruprecht" above.)

According to legend, it was also Bishop Nicholas who gave us 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.

Sheep | das Schaf (-e)

Shepherd(s) | der Hirt (-en), der Schäfer (-)

Silent Night | (Stille Nacht), the world's most popular Christmas carol was created 180 years ago in Austria by Franz Gruber (music) and Joseph Mohr (text), and first performed by them with guitar accompaniment in Oberndorf bei Salzburg on Christmas Eve of 1818. 

Sing | singen

Sled, sleigh, toboggan | der Schlitten (-)

Snow (n.| der Schnee

  • snowball (n.) | der Schneeball
  • snowflake (n.) | die Schneeflocke
  • snowman (n.) | der Schneemann
  • snow sled/sleigh (n.) | der Schlitten
  • snow (v.) | schneien - It's snowing. = Es schneit.
  • snowy (adj.) | schneeigschneebedeckt (covered), Schnee- (in noun compounds)

Stable, stall | der Stall

Star(s) | der Stern (-e)

Sternsinger ("star singers") - dressed as the Wise Men/Three Kings - make their rounds during Advent to raise money for Catholic missions all over the world.

Straw star(s) | der Strohstern (Strohsterne) - A traditional Christmas decorations made of straw.

T

(the) Three Wise Men, Three Kings, Magi | die Heiligen Drei Königedie Weisen

Tinsel | das Lamettader Flitter

Toy(s) | das Spielzeug(e)

V Is for Vanilla Crescent(s) (das Vanillekipferl-n)

An Austrian/Bavarian pastry. Vanillekipferln or Kipferln are small sweet baked crescents covered with powdered vanilla sugar. Traditionally served around Christmas, Kipferln are also made in nut (Nuss), almond (Mandeln), and other varieties.

W

the Wise Men, the Magi | die Weisendie Heiligen Drei Könige

wreath (n.) | der Kranz

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Flippo, Hyde. "How to Say Merry Christmas in German." ThoughtCo, Jun. 28, 2017, thoughtco.com/merry-christmas-and-happy-new-year-4066924. Flippo, Hyde. (2017, June 28). How to Say Merry Christmas in German. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/merry-christmas-and-happy-new-year-4066924 Flippo, Hyde. "How to Say Merry Christmas in German." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/merry-christmas-and-happy-new-year-4066924 (accessed September 23, 2017).