How do you say “Christmas” in Spanish? What is “Navidad” in English? How do they celebrate Christmas in Spanish-speaking cultures?
Well, here’s all the answers you ever wanted to know about holidays in Spanish!
Besides Christmas Day itself, there are other holidays celebrated in Spanish-speaking countries over the winter. Some of these are even bigger than Christmas Day, and overall the winter festivities last about a month. These other holidays often focus on holy feast days from 8th December to 6th January. That said, Christmas Day has become more popular to celebrate,
So besides learning about Christmas in Spanish and all the holiday vocabulary you need, let's learn about the unique holiday traditions from around the Spanish-speaking world. Felices vacaciones! (“Happy Holidays!”)
“Merry Christmas” in Spanish
How do you say “Merry Christmas” in Spanish? You may recognize it from the popular tune – Feliz Navidad. In English, feliz translates as “happy” and navidad means “nativity”. So, it actually means “Happy Christmas” or “Happy Nativity”.
For Christmas Eve, you say Nochebuena. It actually means “the Good Night”, and it’s the day most big celebrations happen in Spain, like the dinner feast with family and Midnight Mass. Families often stay up all night during Nochebuena celebrating together and opening gifts after the midnight mass. The traditional Christmas flower, the Poinsettia, is also called Flor de Nochebuena (“The flower of the Good Night”).
“Happy New Year” in Spanish
You can wish someone a “Happy New Year” by saying Feliz año nuevo. This is a literal translation, with feliz meaning “happy”, año meaning “year”, and nuevo meaning “new”. In Spanish, the adjective comes after the noun it describes, so it’s “Happy Year New”.
But, you can also wish someone a “prosperous new year” as well. You can say ¡Feliz Navidad y Próspero Año Nuevo! to wish someone “Merry Christmas and Happy New Year” in Spanish. A lot of New Year traditions welcome in prosperity for the new year, so Próspero Año Nuevo is commonly used.
For New Year's Eve, you say Nochevieja. It actually translates as “old night”, because it’s the last day of the old year. There are a lot of superstitions about starting the new year completely new and fresh. Many people make sure they've cleaned their homes, and wear all new clothes. This way, nothing from the old year comes with them into the new. Some people believe this is important to ward off bad luck.
50+ More Spanish Words and Phrases for the Christmas Season
So how do you talk about Christmas in Spanish? How do you say you “wish” for a particular gift, or talk about decorating the Christmas tree? How do you tell someone to countdown to midnight, and talk about your New Year’s Resolution? Here are all the words you need to talk about the holidays in Spanish.
Christmas Spanish Vocabulary
- To wish – Desear
- Angel – Ángel
- To decorate – Decorar
- Christmas tree – Árbol de Navidad
- Winter – Invierno
- Snow – Nieve
- Sleigh bells – Campanas de trineo
- Presents – Regalos
- Mistletoe – Muérdago
- Reindeer – Reno
- Santa Claus- Papá Noel
- Candy cane – Bastón de caramelo
- Christmas card – Tarjeta de Navidad
- Snowman – Muñeco de nieve
- Celebrate – Celebrar
- Jingle bells – Resuenan las campanas
- Chimney – Chimenea
- Eggnog – Ponche de huevo
- Candles – Velas
- Elf – Elfo
- Ornament – Adorno
- Family – Familia
- Star – Estrella
- Fireplace – Hogar
- Chestnuts – Castañas
- Carols – Villancicos
- Gingerbread man / Gingerbread house – Hombre de pan de jengibre / Casa de jengibre
- Holiday – Vacaciones
- Hot chocolate – Chocolate caliente
- Jolly – Alegre
- Christmas lights – Luces de Navidad
- Naughty – Travieso
- Nice – Agradable
- Goodwill – Buena voluntad
- Nutcracker – Cascanueces
- Stocking – Calcetín navideño
- Tinsel – Oropel
- Good tidings – Buenas nuevas
- Wrapping paper – Papel de regalo
- December 25 – Vienticinco de diciembre
New Year’s Spanish Vocabulary
- Twelve o’clock – Doce
- Countdown – Cuenta regresiva
- New Year’s resolution – Propósito de año nuevo
- Balloons – Globos
- Confetti – Confeti
- Midnight – Medianoche
- Grapes – Uvas
- Champagne – Champán
- Fireworks – Fuegoes artificiales
- Midnight kiss – Beso de medianoche
- Clock – Reloj
- Ring in the New Year – Anillo en el año nuevo
- Calendar – Calendario
- Tradition – Tradicion
- January 1st – Primero de enero
Spanish Christmas and Winter Holiday Traditions
With all the vocab I’ve given you, you’re likely ready to talk about your own traditions and holidays in Spanish. So, let’s learn about Spanish cultural traditions and unique holidays. There are silly Spanish traditions, religious Spanish feast days, and a day even bigger than Christmas in most Spanish-speaking countries. Maybe this year, you can try a Spanish tradition, too!
Tió de Nadal
Celebrated in Catalonia, Tió de Nadal means “Christmas Log”, but it’s also called Caga Tió – the “Pooping Log”. A wood log is dressed up with a face, wooden legs, and a hat on the feast day of the Immaculate Conception on December 8th. Children have to keep the log warm by covering it with a blanket, and feeding it small pieces of food in the evening. On Christmas, the family will hit the log with a stick and ask the log to poop out treats for the family. If they took good care of the log, they’ll receive their reward – usually turrón, which is a sweet nougat dessert.
El Día de los Reyes Magos
Although Christmas is now a day of gift-giving, it wasn’t always. The traditional day of gift-giving is January 6th, and it’s the Three Kings who bring the gifts, not Santa Claus. Called El Día de los Reyes Magos, it’s based on the biblical story of the three Wise Men who visited Jesus shortly after he was born. When they saw him, they presented him with gifts of frankincense, myrrh, and gold. There’s usually a parade, where the Wise Men go through town and throw candy to young children. When the kids return home, they leave out their shoes, and “the Kings” fill their shoes with presents. But, if the kids have been bad, they might receive lumps of coal instead of gifts. It’s not so bad though – the “coal” is actually candy.
Dia de los Santos Inocentes
The Spanish version of April Fool’s Day, called Dia de los Santos Inocentes (“Day of the Holy Innocents”), happens a few days after Christmas on December 28th. It’s a fun day of pranks and silliness, just like April 1st can be.
Right before Christmas on December 22nd, the Spanish National Lottery (called, El Gordo, “The Fat One”) goes on and it’s the biggest lottery draw in the world. It’s a huge event, and everyone gets very excited about how much money they could win.
Christmas Day Traditions in the Spanish Speaking World
Christianity is important to many Hispanic families. It’s tradition for a family to eat a big Christmas dinner on Christmas Eve, and then go to la Misa del Gallo, which means “Mass of the Rooster” or Midnight Mass. Why a Rooster? Because it’s believed the night Jesus was born, a rooster crowed to mark the beginning of a “new day”, even though it was night time.
Beléns is the Spanish word for Bethlehem, but it represents the nativity scene. While most Spanish homes will have a small nativity scene, large and grand nativity scenes are set up in towns. They are often immersive, with farms and a whole marketplace accompanying the nativity scene in the stable.
A bit like trick-or-treating and carolling together, kids go around singing Christmas carols for treats. It's called piden el aguinaldo (“ask for the Christmas treat” or “bonus”). Sometimes they receive money, and sometimes candy, for their singing. It’s a fun tradition the kids enjoy to take part in and spread Christmas cheer.
New Year’s Traditions in Spanish Cultures
Ringing in the New Year in Spanish-speaking cultures involves a lot of lucky rituals! When the clock strikes twelve, people will eat 12 green grapes, called las doce uvas de la suerte, and make a wish for each one they eat. It’s important to eat them all within the first couple of minutes (or even before the end of the first minute) of the New Year so your wishes come true. In some areas, they also eat lentils right after midnight or for lunch the next day because they’re small and round like coins, so they bring in prosperity. But others prefer to hold real coins at midnight in hopes the New Year will be filled with wealth.
As in other cultures, it’s common to drink champagne at midnight. But usually, the champagne has something in it to bring in luck for the new year. For instance, strawberries bring love, while a gold ring brings wealth. You want to make sure to pull it out of the glass when you’re done, so it comes true.
Another common tradition is to wear yellow. Yellow is a lucky colour in Spain and other Hispanic countries, so it’s often worn on New Year’s Eve. But, if you’re looking for love, you must wear red underwear given to you by someone else. Strange as it sounds, red underwear means luck in love in the New Year, but only if it was a gift. And when the clock strikes midnight, stand on your right foot! This starts the year off “on the right foot” – literally – so you have a good year.
¡Feliz Navidad y Próspero Año Nuevo!
Now, go wish someone a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year in Spanish! Try talking about the new Spanish holidays you learned, too. Did you know about the “pooping log” or the three Wise Men who bring gifts instead of Santa Claus?
Spread Christmas cheer with all the new things you learned, and test out bringing some good luck into your New Year, the traditional Spanish way. How will you celebrate your holidays?
Wherever you are in the world, I hope you have a ¡Feliz Navidad y Próspero Año Nuevo!
And finally... One of the best ways to learn a new language is with podcasts. Read more about how to use podcasts to learn a language.