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How to Say ‘Merry Christmas’ in Japanese

How to Say Merry Christmas in Japanese

Do you know any ways to wish someone a ‘Merry Christmas’ in Japanese? JapanesePod101 brings you easy-to-learn translations and the correct pronunciation of Japanese Christmas phrases!

Christmas is the annual commemorative festival of Christ’s birth in the Western Christian Church. It takes place on December 25th and is usually celebrated with much food and fanfare! However, not all cultures celebrate Christmas. In some countries, Christmas is not even a public holiday! However, many countries have adapted Christmas and its religious meaning to tally with their own beliefs, or simply in acknowledgment of the festival’s importance to other cultures. If you want to impress native Japanese speakers with culturally-appropriate Christmas phrases and vocabulary, JapanesePod101 will teach you the most important ways to wish someone a ‘Merry Christmas’ in Japanese!

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Table of Contents

  1. How to Celebrate Christmas in Japan
  2. Holiday Greetings and Wishes
  3. Must-Know Christmas Day Vocabulary
  4. Twelve Days of Christmas
  5. Top 10 Christmas Characters
  6. How JapanesePod101 Can Help You

1. How to Celebrate Christmas in Japan

Christmas Words in Japanese

As everyone knows, Christmas is a holiday that celebrates the birth of Jesus Christ. In Japan, this holiday is a major event but does not have any religious association. Instead, it’s celebrated with secular traditions. The day is an especially happy one for children, who receive a present from Santa Claus.

Now, before we go into more detail, do you know the answer to this question: when did Christmas come to be recognized in Japan?
If you don’t already know, you’ll find out a bit later.

From the start of November, cities are adorned with Christmas trees and Christmas sales begin. It’s a happy time when people choose presents for their family, friends, and partners. The stores play a never-ending selection of Christmas songs, which helps to excite the hearts of the shoppers. Department stores, bakeries, and convenience stores often sell Christmas cakes. A wide variety of Christmas cakes are sold, ranging from the ever-popular strawberry and fresh cream cake, all the way to some quite elaborate versions. Some places accept orders from October. Also, sales of chicken increase at Christmas. Trees on the streets are decorated with LED lights that beautifully illuminate the nights of midwinter.

On Christmas Eve, children place a stocking by their bed and are excited to wake up the following morning to find a present left by Santa Claus. Parents prepare in advance by asking their children what kind of toy they would like.

At Christmas, more and more Japanese are enjoying a Christmas dinner at home with their family rather than eating out. Single people often eat dinner with their friends or partner, and they exchange gifts and hold parties. Among the younger generation, there is tendency for people to spend a romantic Christmas with their boyfriend or girlfriend.

Here’s our fun fact for the day! Do you know what the most famous Japanese Christmas song is? It’s no exaggeration to say that the most famous song is “Christmas Eve” by 山下達郎 (Tatsuro Yamashita). It’s a popular song in which the lyrics speak of lovers unable to meet on Christmas Eve.

Now it’s time to answer the quiz question: when was Christmas recognized in Japan?

The correct answer is the Meiji era, beginning in the late 19th century. 明治屋 (Meiji-Ya) is a food import company that established a branch in Ginza and held one of the first Christmas sales there. Because of this, celebrating Christmas became more widespread. With each passing year, Christmas becomes more and more of a major annual event, and perhaps could be considered one of the most fun occasions for the Japanese.

2. Holiday Greetings and Wishes for the Holiday Season

Holiday Greetings and Wishes

1- Merry Christmas!

メリークリスマス!
Merīkurisumasu!

Do you know how to say ‘Merry Christmas’ in Japanese? Learn here how to pronounce it perfectly! ‘Merry’ means to be joyful, to celebrate and generally be in good spirits. So, with this phrase you are wishing someone a joyful, celebratory remembrance of Christ’s birth!

2- Happy Kwanzaa!

クワンザおめでとう!
Kuwanza omedetō!

Surprise your African-American, or West African native friends with this phrase over the Christmas holidays! Kwanzaa is a seven-day, non-religious celebration, starting on Dec 26th each year. It has its roots in African American modern history, and many people celebrate both Kwanzaa and Christmas!

3- Have a happy New Year!

良いお年を。
Yoi o-toshi o.

In countries where Christmas is not officially celebrated, but a Gregorian calendar is observed, this would be a friendly festive-season wish over New Year.

4- Happy Hanukkah!

ハヌーカおめでとう!
Hanūka omedetō!

Hanukkah is the beautiful Hebrew festival over November or December each year. It is also called the ‘Festival of Lights’ and is celebrated to commemorate the Jewish freedom of religion.

5- Have a great winter vacation!

良い冬休みを!
Ī fuyu yasumi o!

This is a good phrase to keep handy if someone doesn’t observe any religious festival over the Christmas holidays! However, this will only be applicable in the Northern hemisphere, where it is winter over Christmas.

6- See you next year!

また来年!
Mata rainen!

Going away on holiday over Christmas season, or saying goodbye to someone about to leave on vacation? This would be a good way to say goodbye to your friends and family.

7- Warm wishes!

ご多幸をお祈りしています。
Go-takō o oinori shite imasu.

An informal, friendly phrase to write in Japanese Christmas cards, especially for secular friends who prefer to observe Christmas celebrations without the religious symbolism. It conveys the warmth of friendship and friendly wishes associated with this time of year.

8- Happy holidays!

良い休暇を!
Ī kyūka o!

If you forget how to say ‘Merry Christmas!’ in Japanese, this is a safe, generic phrase to use instead.

9- Enjoy the holidays!

休暇を楽しんでね!
Kyūka o tanoshinde ne!

After saying ‘Merry Christmas’ in Japanese, this would be a good phrase with which to wish Christmas holiday-goers well! It is also good to use for secular friends who don’t celebrate Christmas but take a holiday at this time of the year.

10- Best wishes for the New Year!

新年が良い年でありますように。
Shin’nen ga yoi toshi de arimasu yō ni.

This is another way of wishing someone well in the New Year if they observe a Gregorian calendar. New Year’s day would then fall on January 1st.

3. Must-Know Christmas Day Vocabulary

Christmas is associated with many traditions and religious symbols in multiple countries across the world. It originated centuries ago in the West with the birth of Christianity, and the celebrations are often embedded with rich cultural significance. So, by now you know how to say Merry Christmas in Japanese! Next, learn pertinent vocabulary and phrases pertaining to Christmas, as well as how to pronounce them correctly. At JapanesePod101, we make sure you sound like a native speaker!

1- Christmas

クリスマス
Kurisumasu

This is the Japanese word for ‘Christmas’. Most happy Christmas wishes in Japanese will include this word!

2- Snow


yuki

In most Northern-hemisphere countries, Christmas is synonymous with snow, and for Christmas, the snowman is often dressed as Santa Claus.

3- Snowflake

雪の結晶
yuki no kesshō

Snowflakes collectively make up snow. A single snowflake is small, white, light like a feather and icy cold! When put under a microscope, the snowflake reveals itself to have the most beautiful, symmetrical patterns. These patterns have become popular Christmas decorations, especially in Western countries.

4- Snowman

雪だるま
yukidaruma

As you guessed - a snowman is only possible to build if it is snowing! What a fun way to spend Christmas day outside.

5- Turkey

七面鳥
shichimenchō

Roast turkey is the traditional main dish on thousands of lunch tables on Christmas day, mainly in Western countries. What is your favorite Christmas dish?

6- Wreath

リース
rīsu

Another traditional Western decoration for Christmas, the wreath is an arrangement of flowers, leaves, or stems fastened in a ring. Many families like to hang a Christmas wreath outside on their houses’ front doors.

7- Reindeer

トナカイ
tonakai

Reindeer are the animals commonly fabled to pull Santa Claus’ sled across the sky! Western Christmas folklore tells of Father Christmas or Santa Claus doing the rounds with his sled, carrying Christmas presents for children, and dropping them into houses through the chimney. But who is Santa Claus?

8- Santa Claus

サンタクロース
Santa Kurōsu

Santa Claus is a legendary and jolly figure originating in the Western Christian culture. He is known by many names, but is traditionally depicted as a rotund man wearing a red costume with a pointy hat, and sporting a long, snow-white beard!

9- Elf

妖精
yōsei

An elf is a supernatural creature of folklore with pointy ears, a dainty, humanoid body and a capricious nature. Elves are said to help Santa Claus distribute presents to children over Christmas!

10- Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer

赤鼻のトナカイ
akahana no tonakai

‘Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer’ is a Christmas song based on an American children’s story book with the same name. Rudolph is one of Santa’s reindeer. The song became more famous than the book, and can still be heard playing in many shopping malls over Christmas time across the globe!

11- North Pole

北極
hokkyoku

The cold North Pole is where Santa Claus is reputed to live with his reindeer!

12- Sled

そり
sori

A sled is a non-motorised land vehicle used to travel over snow in countries where it snows a lot, and is usually pulled by animals such as horses, dogs or reindeer. This one obviously refers to Santa’s sled! Another word for sled is sleigh or sledge.

13- Present

プレゼント
purezento

Gift or present giving is synonymous with Christmas Eve and the greatest source of joy for children over this festive time! This tradition signifies that Christ’s birth was a gift to mankind, but not all people who hand out presents over Christmas observe the religious meaning.

14- Bell


suzu

On Christmas Day, or Christmas Eve, many religious celebrants enjoy going to church for a special sermon and Christmas rituals. The start of the sermon is often announced with bells or a bell, if the church has one. For this reason, the sound of ringing bells is often associated with Christmas Day.

15- Chimney

煙突
entotsu

The chimney is the entrance Santa Claus uses to deliver children’s presents on Christmas Day, according to folklore! Wonder how the chubby man and his elves stay clean…?!

16- Fireplace

暖炉
danro

In most countries where it snows, Christmas is synonymous with a fire or burning embers in houses’ fireplaces. Families huddle around its warmth while opening Christmas presents. Also, this is where Santa Claus is reputed to pop out after his journey down the chimney!

17- Christmas Day

クリスマス
Kurisumasu

This is the official day of commemorative celebration of Christ’s birth, and falls each year on December 25.

18- Decoration

装飾 装飾
sōshoku

Decorations are the colourful trinkets and posters that make their appearance in shops and homes during the Christmas holiday season in many countries! They give the places a celebratory atmosphere in anticipation of the big Christmas celebration. Typical Christmas decorations include colorful photographs and posters, strings of lights, figurines of Santa Claus and the nativity scene, poinsettia flowers, snowflakes and many more.

19- Stocking

靴下
kutsushita

According to legend, Santa Claus places children’s presents in a red stocking hanging over the fireplace. This has also become a popular decoration, signifying Christmas.

20- Holly

ヒイラギ
hiiragi

Holly is a shrub native to the UK, and parts of Europe, Africa and Asia. It is characterised by glossy, spiny-toothed leaves, small, whitish flowers, and red berries. Ironically, its significance for Christmas relates to Christ’s crucifixion and suffering rather than his birth. However, the leaves’ distinctive shape and image have become popular Christmas decorations.

21- Gingerbread house

ジンジャーブレッド・ハウス
jinjābureddo hausu

According to legend, the gingerbread house synonymous with Christmas is related to Christ’s birth place, Bethlehem. Bethlehem literally means ‘House of Bread’. Over centuries, it has become a popular treat over Christmas time in many non-religious households as well.

22- Candy cane

キャンディケイン
kyandī kein

According to folklore, Christmas candy canes made their appearance first in Germany in the 16th century. A choir master gave children the candy canes to suck on in church in order to keep them quiet during the Christmas sermon! Apparently, the candy is shaped like a cane in remembrance of the shepherds who were the first to visit the baby Jesus. Today, like gingerbread houses, they are still a popular sweet over the festive season!

23- Mistletoe

ヤドリギ
yadorigi

Mistletoe is a parasitic plant that grows on certain trees. In the Middle Ages, it was believed that the mistletoe has magical powers, and could protect a household from evil if hung above a door during December. The belief didn’t last but the habit did, and the mistletoe is another popular Christmas decoration!

4. Twelve Days of Christmas

Twelve Days of Christmas

Wow, you’re doing extremely well! You know how to wish someone a Merry Christmas in Japanese, and you learned pertinent vocabulary too! The Twelve Days of Christmas is not very well known in modern times, so, you’re on your way to becoming an expert in Christmas traditions and rituals. Well done!

The Twelve Days of Christmas, also known as Twelvetide, is a traditional festive period of 12 days dedicated to celebrate the nativity of Christ. Christmas Day is, for many who observe Twelvetide, the first day of this period.

‘The Twelve Days of Christmas’ is also a popular Christmas song about a series of gifts given on each day of Twelvetide. According to experts, these gifts were created as a coded reference to important symbols in the Christian church. Here is a list of those gifts mentioned in the song! Do you recognise them?

5. Top 10 Christmas Characters in American Culture

Top 10 Christmas Characters

This is fantastic, you know how to explain almost everything about Christmas in Japanese! However, do you know the most popular Christmas characters in American culture? Your knowledge will not be complete without this list.

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