May your Christmas happiness be fivefold at least

Cover of "Joyeux Noel (Widescreen)"

Cover of Joyeux Noel (Widescreen)

In English we usually say Merry Christmas or Happy Christmas, the French tend to be joyous and go for Joyeux Noël, the Portuguese wish one another a feliz Natal, the Spanish go for feliz Navidad, the Italians say Buon Natale, while the Romanians opt for Crăciun fericit. You can see here that “happy” part in Portuguese, Spanish and Romanian is related – feliz for the Iberians and fericit for the Romanians. This shouldn’t be surprising as  English has linked words such as felicity, felicitous and felicitations, as indeed does French. The English word Christmas is obviously related to the name of Jesus Christ, but the French, Italian, Spanish and Portuguese names are derived from the Latin word natalis. The word “natal” exists in English too, of course, as a adjective meaning relating to the place or time of one’s birth, and there are other related words such as postnatal, nativity, etc.

The odd word out here is the Romanian one for Christmas, Crăciun. It seems none of the countries bordering Romania (such as Bulgaria, Hungary or Serbia) have similar words. I did a hunt on the web and found it listed as an entry at .

Here is the main explanation:


Probably from Latin creātiōcreātiōnem, with the meaning derived from that of the creation or birth of a child, e.g. Jesus’ birth on Christmas. Compare the archaic meaning of Spanish criazón (“person or child living in a house under the authority of another”), of the same origin (cf. crío and the verb criar in Spanish); compare also Sardinian criatzione, with meanings related to child. The Romanian word had an older, archaic meaning of “birth” in church or religious usage, and is also used for the holy image of Christ’s birth.

Incidentally, I was going to choose a stereotypical Christmas image for this posting but came across the poster for a great and moving French film, Joyeux Noel, which centres on a Christmas day in the trenches in the first world war. I would recommend it if you haven’t seen it already.

Anyway, whatever your language, whatever your religion (or lack of), have a good one. Cheers.


4 thoughts on “May your Christmas happiness be fivefold at least

  1. Oh I loved reading this – how interesting to see the origin of the words!
    Will definitely look out for the movie – on the subject of French movies I must just mention that I fell in love with the movie Camille centred around the Impressionists (it did have sub titles for the less fluent French students like myself). The movie portrayed the incredible passion & beauty the French have oozing from every pore & the lyric of the language was so memorable!
    Happy happy to you too!

    • Hi, glad you liked this. Soon most of my posts will be a bit like this, comparing sayings in the five languages side by side. At the moment we are still in the introductory phase but things will pick up soon. Thanks for your comments, you are my number one fan!

  2. Pingback: CAT OF THE DAY 066 | CATS ON FILM

    • Hello, thanks for your “pingback”. I really liked your post about the cat in that film. I had forgotten all about it. Interesting blog you have there. Merry Christmas and all the best for 2013

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