3, 2, 1, happy New Year!
Sparkling wine, glamorous parties, midnight kisses…
It’s not hard to see why the New Year is one of the most widely celebrated holidays around the world.
And while you’re looking ahead to a new year full of new hopes and goals, why not ring it in with some new traditions, too?
Like adding a bit of French to your New Year’s celebrations!
Many of us include learning a new language as one of our New Year’s resolutions anyway, so get a head start by learning some fun vocabulary to try out this New Year’s Eve.
We’ll show you essential phrases in French for “Happy New Year” and other typical holiday wishes, along with vocabulary to celebrate like the French do and even set your New Year’s resolutions in French.
Where to Get a Taste of the French New Year
If you’re looking for a fun way to incorporate French into your New Year’s celebrations, there are many ways to do so from the comfort of your own home.
For starters, you can improve your reading skills with some New Year’s themed poems. Believe it or not, there are tons of them online, and my personal favorite sites on which to find them are Dico-Citations and Mon Poème (My Poem).
Or, if you’re more of an auditory learner, try listening to Lokassa Ya M’bongo’s famous New Year song called “Bonne année” (“Happy New Year”). It’s got a great melody and the lyrics are loaded with fantastic New Year’s vocabulary.
For those of you who love comedy and enjoy watching videos on YouTube, check out this hilarious video from online comedian Hassan.
He parodies what the New Year is really like and talks about expectations versus reality. A word of warning that there’s the occasional French swear word, but really you can’t beat learning French New Year’s vocabulary through funny videos!
If you want to be sure that you understand any French video you watch, FluentU is an incredible tool.
FluentU takes real-world videos—like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language learning lessons.
For example, you can click the interactive subtitles for an instant definition of any word while you watch. There are also vocabulary lists, full transcripts, flashcards and fun quizzes tailor-made for every video. It’s an entertaining way to learn French the way native speakers actually use it, and it doesn’t even feel like studying.
For example, these interviews with French speakers about their New Year’s resolutions will get your year started in French-mode. To watch with all the learning features and explore the rest of the FluentU library, sign up for a free FluentU trial.
3, 2, 1! French Happy New Year Phrases You Can Learn Before the Ball Drops
Below you’ll find a comprehensive vocabulary guide to say “Happy New Year” and much more in French. These phrases will help you understand the terms you’ll hear while checking out the above resources, and provide you with the essentials to celebrate the New Year with French speakers.
French for “Happy New Year” and Other Essential Phrases
Translation: Happy New Year!
Le réveillon de la Saint-Sylvestre
Translation: New Year’s Eve
Le réveillon de la Saint-Sylvestre literally translates to “The Eve of Saint Sylvester” and refers to the feast day for this Catholic saint and former Pope. Sometimes, the phrase is shortened simply to la Saint-Sylvestre (Saint Sylvester). The French refer to the feast day when talking about New Year’s Eve.
There’s another non-religious term for New Year’s Eve as well, which is le réveillon (evening party/feast) or le réveillon du premier de l’an (the evening party/feast for the first of the year). These phrases can be used to refer to either New Year’s Eve night or even New Year’s Eve dinner.
Here are two example sentences:
Il y a un réveillon chez moi pour la nouvelle année. (There is an evening dinner party/feast at my house for the New Year.)
On va passer le réveillon du premier de l’an ensemble. (We’re going to spend New Year’s Eve together.)
Le jour de l’an
Translation: New Year’s Day
You can also say le Nouvel An (the New Year).
Le 31 de decembre
Translation: December 31st
Let me take this opportunity to remind you that months are not capitalized in French!
Le premier de janvier
Translation: January 1st
Translation: To count
While le compte à rebours is French for “countdown,” or “counting backward,” it’s more common to simply say something along the lines of on compte les secondes avant la nouvelle année (we count the seconds before the New Year).
La fin d’année
Translation: The end of the year
Translation: Best wishes
You could also add to this statement by saying meilleurs vœux pour la nouvelle année (best wishes for the New Year).
Translation: Happy Holidays!
While joyeuses fêtes can be used for any holiday, you can also say bonnes fêtes de fin d’année which literally translates to “Happy end-of-the-year holidays.”
As a side note, all of the above four phrases—meilleurs vœux, meilleurs vœux pour la nouvelle année, joyeuses fêtes and bonnes fêtes de fin d’année—could be used on holiday cards in place of the popular English phrase “Season’s Greetings.”
Words for Your French New Year’s Celebrations
Translation: To celebrate
While célébrer literally means “to celebrate,” it’s pretty much interchangeable with fêter, which would more literally mean, “to party.”
Translation: To dance
Don’t forget to add the “e” if you need to make the word feminine to talk about an all-female group of friends.
Les feux d’artifice
The literal translation is “artificial fire.” French sure is poetic, isn’t it!
You may associate mistletoe more with Christmas than any other holiday, but in France, it’s quite common to kiss under the mistletoe during New Year’s festivities as well.
Translation: To kiss
This is just one of the many ways you can talk about kissing in French. You can also say faire une bise à or donner un bisou à which both mean “to give a kiss to someone.”
I recommend one of these other sayings if you want to imply a simple peck or friendly kiss. Otherwise, reserve s’embrasser for when you share a more passionate kiss with your significant other.
Translation: To toast
Un toast is an anglicism, meaning the French adopted the noun from English.
However, in order to talk about the act of toasting someone, you need to use either porter un toast (to propose a toast) or lever son verre à (to raise your glass to someone).
Translation: To drink
New Year’s Resolutions in French
Perdre du poids
Translation: To lose weight
Manger plus sainement
Translation: To eat healthier
As a side note, la santé means “health,” and the phrase en bonne santé means “healthy,” or more literally “in good health.”
Faire plus d’exercice
Translation: To exercise more
Remember that there’s no verb in French that means “to exercise.” Rather, you need to use the whole phrase above, which literally translates to “to do more exercise.”
You can also use the phrase faire du sport (to do sport). Note that the word faire (to do/to make) is used rather than the verb jouer (to play) when talking about sports in French.
Obtenir une promotion
Translation: To get a promotion
Changer de travail
Translation: To change jobs
Économiser de l’argent
Translation: To save money
There’s another way to talk about money in French, which can be especially useful when discussing saving for something specific. The phrase is mettre de côté (to put aside).
For example, you could say, Je mets de côté une somme suffisante pour m’acheter un nouvel appartement. (I’m putting aside a sufficient sum in order to buy a new apartment.)
The English translation may sound a bit formal to your ear at first, but it’s perfectly standard to use this construction in French.
Passer plus de temps en famille
Translation: To spend more time with family
Notice the use of the preposition en (in) in this phrase. It’s not the same as its English equivalent, which uses the preposition “with” (avec in French).
Se faire de nouveaux/nouvelles ami(e)s
Translation: To make new friends
Apprendre une nouvelle compétence
Translation: To learn a new skill
Être plus social(e)
Translation: To be more outgoing
Prendre un nouveau passe-temps
Translation: To take up a new hobby
While this is probably the most commonly used phrase in French, some people do replace passe-temps (pastime) with the English word “hobby.” In other words, the anglicism is also used.
Here’s an example:
J’ai besoin de trouver un autre hobby. (I need to find another hobby.)
You’re officially ready to celebrate the New Year in true French fashion. Meilleurs voeux pour la nouvelle année!
Camille Turner is an experienced freelance writer and ESL teacher.
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