Do you plan to spend the holidays in Japan? Maybe you have a Japanese pen pal who you want to wish an enjoyable winter holiday? Saying ‘Merry Christmas’ in Japanese is very easy: merii kurisumasu (メリークリスマス)!
The English phrase has no direct translation in Japanese, because the holiday was only adapted from the West during the Meiji era. The greeting is the same as in English, but is pronounced with a Japanese accent.
Of course, not everyone celebrates the festive holidays the same way. There are other religious and cultural holidays like Hanukkah and Kwanzaa, which foreigners residing in or visiting Japan still celebrate.
Let’s look at some of the many ways to wish people a Merry Christmas and happy holidays in Japanese!
This is the standard greeting you’ll hear during Christmas in Japan! It is written in katakana because the original greeting is of foreign origin.
You can definitely use merii kurisumasu with anyone – family, friends, coworkers!
If you want to make this a bit formal for your boss or seniors, you may say kurisumasu omedetou gozaimasu (クリスマスおめでとうございます).
Omedetou gozaimasu is a congratulatory phrase. You might recognise it from other Japanese greetings such as otanjoubi omedetou gozaimasu (happy birthday in Japanese). So this phrase literally translates to ‘Congratulations on Christmas’. But a better contextual translation would still mean ‘Merry Christmas’, but in a more polite way!
By the way, do you know how to sing ‘We Wish You a Merry Christmas’ in Japanese? Check out this video by adorable Japanese kids’ entertainers, BonBon Academy.
The phrase used for ‘Merry Christmas’ in this song is omedetou kurisumasu (おめでとうクリスマス), but this is not used as a greeting outside of the song.
Now, let’s look at greetings you can use for other winter holidays, as well as some festive messages you can write in Christmas cards to your Japanese friends.
If you have any Jewish friends, be sure to greet them hanukaa omedetou! Hanukkah is a Jewish religious holiday celebrated between late November and early December, though the dates change every year. This holiday commemorates the Jewish freedom of religion and is also known as ‘Festival of Lights’!
For your African or African-American friends who observe Kwanzaa, wish them kwanzaa omedetou! Kwanzaa is a cultural holiday celebrated from December 26 to January 1 and commemorates African heritage. The word ‘Kwanzaa’ translates to ‘fruits first’ in Swahili!
Ii fuyu yasumi wo
Have a great winter break
Before parting with your friends to go home and spend the holidays, be sure to wish them a good winter break! Ii (いい) means ‘good’ or ‘great’ while fuyu (冬 / ふゆ) is the Japanese word for ‘winter’. Yasumi means ‘vacation’, ‘holiday’, or ‘rest’.
Ii kyuuka wo
Have a good holiday
Similar to the previous phrase, ii kyuuka wo also wishes someone to have a good holiday. This might be better suited for coworkers or your boss, since kyuuka (休暇 / きゅうか) means ‘holiday’, ‘day off’, or ‘absence from work’.
Kyuuka wo tanoshinde ne
Enjoy the holidays
This phrase is another one you can use for friends and coworkers. This can be added after saying merii kurisumasu or used on its own. This is also a suitable greeting to wish non-religious people who still celebrate the holidays.
Tanoshinde is the -te form of tanoshimu (楽しむ / たのしむ), which means ‘to enjoy (oneself)’.
Go takō wo oinori shite imasu
This is an informal greeting like those you may see on Christmas cards. You may use this in written letters or mail to wish friends or family a warm holiday!
Takō (多幸 / たこう) is a Japanese word for ‘great happiness’, and go (ご) is added before it to make the word more polite. Inori (祈り / いのり) means ‘prayer’; likewise, o (お) is added to transform the word to its polite form.
A more formal variant of this greeting is the humble form go takō wo oinori moushiagemasu (ご多幸をお祈り申し上げます / ごたこうをおいのりもうしあげます).
Merry Christmas in Japanese
Now you know several different ways to say Merry Christmas in Japanese, and other ways to wish happy holidays to your Japanese friends.
Check out these related posts to learn more about the festive season in Japan!
- How to Say Happy New Year in Japanese
- Christmas in Japan: How to Celebrate Like a Local
- New Year in Japan: Traditions, Food and Celebrations
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Thea is a freelance content writer, currently majoring in Japanese studies. She likes to create art and draws inspiration from film and music. Thea was inspired to study Japanese language and culture by reading the literary works of Haruki Murakami and Edogawa Ranpo.