merry christmas in french

How to Say Merry Christmas in French (and Other Holiday Greetings)

Get into the French Christmas spirit by learning all the vocabulary you need and setting out milk and cookies for Père Noël  (Santa Claus—here literally translated as Father Christmas).

From mingling with new friends, to sharing gifts with family or searching for the perfect words for your Christmas card, this post will give you the most important phrases you need to express your holiday excitement!


Merry Christmas in French: Joyeux Noël!

merry christmas in french

The most important Christmas phrase to know is of course, “Merry Christmas.”

In French, this is Joyeux Noël. Joyeux translates to “joyous,” while Noël is simply the word used for “Christmas.”

It is the most common holiday phrase and you’ll likely hear it a lot once it gets closer to Christmastime. Here are some examples:

Bonsoir! Joyeux Noël! (Good night! Merry Christmas!)

Je vous souhaite un Joyeux Noël! (I wish you a Merry Christmas!)

After you’ve mastered the pronunciation, you’ll be able to use this phrase in any situation that you normally would in English.

Other French Holiday Phrases

merry christmas in french

Outside of the holiday season, Meilleurs vœux means “good wishes” or “best wishes.”

At Christmastime, it means “Season’s Greetings,” and is the perfect holiday phrase to encompass all of the Christmas and New Year’s holiday events. 

Meilleurs vœux! (Season’s greetings!)

  • Bonnes et Heureuses Fêtes / Joyeuses Fêtes — Happy Holidays

If you get sick of saying Joyeux Noël over and over, you can switch to Bonnes et Heureuses Fêtes! or Joyeuses Fêtes  (either one means “Happy Holidays”).

This is a good substitute for meilleurs vœux and a great way to greet someone and catch all the season’s events together.

This one is also great for people who might not celebrate Christmas.

Joyeuses fêtes! À l’année prochaine! (Happy Holidays! See you next year!)

Bonne année et bonne santé is one of the most common holiday greetings.

Wishing good health during the holiday season is only natural.

Either way, it’s a lovely phrase that both observes the happiness of the holiday season and wishes a pleasant and happy New Year.

Ça me fait plaisir de te voir! Bonne année et bonne santé. (I am so happy to see you! Happy New Year and I wish you good health.)

Here’s an example of when Joyeux Noël is used as only part of the greeting. 

This is a more pleasant and also more advanced way to wish someone a Merry Christmas. 

Je vous envoie vœux de Bonheur pour un Joyeux Noël! (I send you happy wishes for a Merry Christmas!)

If you’re ready to leave behind the word vœux for a spell, souhaits means the same thing—wishes—and can communicate something very similar. 

Cette année a été difficile, Meilleurs souhaits pour le Nouvel An. (This year was hard, best wishes for the New Year.)

Another way to wish someone happy holidays is to tell them you’re doing so. Je vous souhaite (I wish you) will communicate just that.

Je vous souhaite d’excellentes fêtes, et bonne année. (I wish you an excellent holiday and a Happy New Year.)

Sometimes, you’d like to be a little more specific in what kind of happinesses you wish upon someone in the New Year.

Here’s a phrase that does just that.

Que l’année vous procure ___ goes beyond the usual Meilleurs vœux and outlines the positivity you’re wishing into someone’s life for the upcoming year. 

J’espère que l’année vous procure bonheur, santé et prospérité. (I hope that the year brings you happiness, health and prosperity.)

If you’re talking with someone about their plans for the holiday season, and they mention your family, this greeting would be perfectly appropriate.

Passez un Joyeux Noël en famille. (Have a good Christmas with your family.)

This is how you wish someone a happy Day of Three Kings

Joyeuse Fête des Rois! (Happy Day of Three Kings!)

The best way to commit these phrases to memory is to see how they’re actually used in context! You can watch movies, listen to music, or read books in French that are Christmas-themed to see how these phrases come up.

Another great option is FluentU, a language learning program that teaches you French through short, authentic videos such as movie clips, music videos and more.

The curated library has hundreds of videos—some which are Christmas related—where you can see different words and phrases as they are really used by native speakers. By seeing how some of these phrases are present in authentic content, you’ll gain a better idea of how you can use them yourself.

You’ll even have access to learning tools such as interactive subtitles, flashcards, quizzes and more, which make learning through authentic content seamless and effective.

Plus, FluentU is also available as an iOS or Android app.

French Christmas Traditions

merry christmas in french

  • Le Réveillon This is the huge feast that takes place on Christmas Eve and feature the finest of French delicacies. In typical French fashion, this meal takes hours and hours and is accompanied by lots of drinking!
  • Midnight Mass — Somewhere in between courses of the Réveillon, most French people will take the time to attend a midnight mass.
  • Shoes by the fire — While we may put stockings up to be filled with gifts, French children actually put out their shoes to be stuffed!
  • Père Noël and Père Fouettard — During the night of Christmas Eve, Père Noël delivers presents to all of the children. He is accompanied by Père Fouettard, who spanks those that are unfortunate enough to be considered naughty.
  • Postcards from Père Noël — There’s actually a French law that requires any letters sent to Père Noël to be answered with a postcard!
  • La Fête des Rois — The Day of Three Kings or “L’Épiphanie” on January 6th celebrates the day the three wise men brought gifts to the Christ child. 
  • La Galette des Rois — For L’Épiphanie, French families bake a galette des rois, or a Kings’ Cake, and cook inside of it a a small figurine. The person who finds the figurine in their slice of cake is crowned King or Queen.


So set out your shoes and hang up the mistletoe, because it’s time to celebrate!

Joyeux Noël et Bonne Année !

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