From Around The World
There are nearly 200 countries in the world, and of those countries, over 160 officially celebrate Christmas. On every continent, including Antarctica (even though it's not officially a country), an assortment of Christmas celebrations consume the last couple weeks of the calendar year. With so many different nations celebrating Christmas in so many different languages, it follows that a typical Christmas phrase like our "Merry Christmas" is only one out of hundreds of greetings from around the world. Take a quick trip around the globe and impress your friends during the holiday season with these Christmas greetings and customs from each of our planet's seven continents.
Hawaii -- "Mele Kalikimaka"
Everyone knows the common English Christmas greetings we use in America, but you've probably also heard of this phrase from The Aloha State courtesy of a famous Bing Crosby holiday song. "Mele Kalikimaka" is much more than an upbeat Christmas song from the 1950s. It's how Hawaiians say "Merry Christmas," but interestingly, it's not a direct translation into the Hawaiian language. Since there isn't an equivalent for "r" or "s" sounds in Hawaiian, in addition to other phonological reasons, the Hawaiian language distorted "Merry Christmas" into a phrase that was easier to say. In case you haven't heard the Crosby tune, the pronunciation is May-lay Kah-lee-kee-mah-kah.
Ecuador (Spanish) -- "Feliz Navidad"
The United States is home to the second-largest Spanish speaking population in the world outside of Mexico, but even though North America boasts the top two Spanish speaking nations on the planet, South America has the most native Spanish speakers. Like Crosby's Hawaiian Christmas tribute, the Spanish Christmas greeting, "Feliz Navidad," was introduced to the mainstream by Jose Feliciano in 1970. In countries like Ecuador and Argentina, which reside in the Southern Hemisphere, Christmas is celebrated in the warmth of summer. But Spanish isn't the only major language spoken in South America. In Brazil, Portuguese is the dominant language, where the greeting changes slightly to "Feliz Natal".
Ireland (Gaelic) -- "Nollaig Shona Dhuit"
Christmas was considered an English custom, so following the American Revolution, it wasn't as popular in the United States for many years. Given how much Christmas has changed over the centuries, it's obvious that there would be differences between our greetings and those of the country responsible for our official language. Although our "Merry Christmas" came from Great Britain, nowadays it's more popular to say "Happy Christmas" in England and Northern Ireland. And if you want to deliver a proper Christmas greeting in Ireland, the Gaelic phrase is "Nollaig shona dhuit!" Its pronunciation close to "No-lihg ho-nuh ghwitch."
Kenya (Swahili) -- "Krismasi Njema"
Aside from Asia, Africa has the most diverse concentration of spoken languages in the world, with well over 2,000. The most popular of them are Swahili, Zulu, Amharic and Afrikaans. Each language has its own unique translation of "Merry Christmas." Swahili is considered to represent the largest population of speakers across the continent, and is the national language in countries like Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Mozambique and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. In Swahili, the common Christmas greeting is "Krismasi njema" or "Kriz-mah-see en-jee-mah."
New Guinea (Tok Pisin) -- "Meri Krismas"
You can certainly get by in Australia with the common English Christmas greetings. But Australia isn't the only country on the continent that bears its name. Papua New Guinea, with islands located as close as a few miles from Australia, is also considered part of the Australian continent. The adopted Christmas greeting is not too far from its English roots, and it is pronounced about the same way. Meanwhile, over on Australia's mainland, the slang for Christmas is sometimes called "Chrissy," which among other things probably befuddles a fair share of vacationing English speakers named Christine around Christmastime.
China (Mandarin) -- "Shèng dàn jié"
With over 2,300 different languages across nearly 50 countries, Asia edges out Africa as the most linguistically diverse continent on the planet. It's also the continent with the most people, and a majority of those people reside in China or India. They happen to be the largest countries by population in the world by a huge margin at around 1.3 billion and 1.1 billion, respectively. The main language spoken in China, as well as many surrounding countries, is Mandarin. There are two different ways to say "Merry Christmas" in Mandarin. The first, "Shèng dàn jié," is somewhat generic, translating to something like, "holiday for the birth of a saint." The second, "yē dàn jié," is more specific to Christmas, meaning something closer to "holiday of the birth of Jesus". Learn more about how to pronounce these phrases here.
Believe it or not, people do live in Antarctica. However, the entire population isn't comprised of permanent residents, but instead, people from a variety of nations occupying research stations that are scattered around its most habitable regions. Upwards of 4,000 people call Antarctica their home during the Christmas season, and anywhere from 20 to 30 nations could be celebrating around that time, including Belgium, Finland, Norway, South Korea, Poland, Brazil and Italy. Needless to say, you'd hear a medley of Christmas greetings if you were spending your Christmas vacation in Antarctica. And some adventurous folks actually do, taking advantage of the nearly 20 hours of daylight in late December.
Christmas is unique to each continent, each nation, each culture and each family. No matter how far we might travel or how many different Christmas experiences we might get to participate in, nothing really ever beats our own traditional Christmas at home. Make your family's Christmas special with Christmas gift ideas, gift wrap and holiday decorations from The Lakeside Collection.
At The Lakeside Collection, Zach enjoys using his abilities as a storyteller, researcher and content creator to deliver a fresh take on subjects both new and familiar, from easy tips to optimize the space in your home to do-it-yourself building projects for your backyard retreat.