“Merry Christmas” in Japanese and 62 Other Holiday Phrases
Need to wish someone “Merry Christmas” in Japanese?
Well, we have you covered. But be aware: Christmas, or クリスマス (くりすます), in Japan might be a bit different than what you’re used to.
So read on and learn some phrases you can use to spread holiday cheer. Plus, learn more about how Japan celebrates the holidays.
- Holiday Greetings and Well Wishes
- Phrases for Giving and Receiving Gifts
- Essential Phrases for Shopping
- Japanese Christmas Traditions
- Japanese Christmas Media and Pop Culture
- Japanese New Year
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Holiday Greetings and Well Wishes
Here are some common Japanese phrases you can use to wish others a Merry Christmas:
A shortened way to say: Merry Christmas!
Have a Merry Christmas!
This phrase is French for Merry Christmas. Japanese is full of loan words and phrases from other languages. You may see this one on signs and promotional materials around the holidays.
For more general well-wishing, you can use:
Happy Holidays! (This is another loan phrase from English.)
Enjoy the holidays! (This has a similar meaning to “Happy Holidays!” above, but uses Japanese rather than the English loan words).
Phrases for Giving and Receiving Gifts
Christmas is a wonderful time to show gratitude for those you’ve built relationships with throughout the year.
So, as with most places, Christmas in Japan is a time for gift-giving.
Etiquette is important in Japan, so this may be a good time to go over some basic polite language too.
Here are some phrases you can use:
I thought you might like this so…
This isn’t much but…
I hope you like it…
In the spirit of Christmas (here’s a gift for you).
Please accept this small token of gratitude.
Essential Phrases for Shopping
What are the holidays without shopping?
Here are some phrases you can use when trying to purchase something:
How much is this?
Can I pay with a credit card?
Do you recommend any gifts for XX?
(You can replace the circles with 彼女 —（かのじょ）girlfriend, 彼氏 —（かれし）boyfriend, 家族 —（かぞく）family, 友達 —（ともだち), etc.)
Do you have this in a different color?
Do you have this in another size?
Or, if you need to return something, use:
I have a receipt.
Can I have a refund?
Can I exchange this item?
This product is damaged (has damages).
This product is broken.
This is the wrong size.
There’s a stain here.
Japanese Christmas Traditions
Japanese Christmas is a secular holiday. And December 25th isn’t recognized as a national holiday like it is in the United States and other parts of the world. People still go to work and school as usual.
Japan has its own unique customs for Christmas. While these differ in most ways from those we might be familiar with in other countries, there are some areas of overlap.
No one’s leaving out milk and cookies for Old Saint Nick. It’s more common to see people dressing up as him for Christmas parties. Santa also appears on most holiday merchandise and promotional material.
Instead of Santa Claus, a prefecture’s mascot is the one that gears up in holiday swagger and visits everyone!
Christmas is a great time to visit Japan because of the many holiday-themed attractions offered.
Here are some phrases related to holiday traditions in Japan:
Christmas light decorations
These dazzling lights fill many streets and corners of Japan. One of the most recognizable decorations is Osaka Castle. It’s mesmerizing to see in person if you ever get the chance.
“Year-end visit” to a temple or shrine
Temples and shrines play a huge part in Japanese culture. Around the end of the year, many individuals and businesses flock to Japan’s historical locales to seek good fortune going into the New Year.
Some common practices for people visiting temples include wishing for luck, blessing their homes and families and purifying bad thoughts and habits.
Japanese Christmas Food Traditions
Forget the turkey and candy canes, Japan adopted cake as a symbol of Christmas, along with Kentucky Fried Chicken.
Kentucky Fried Chicken
This crispy choice originated in 1974, when Takeshi Okawara, a KFC employee, started the slogan:
“Kentucky Fried Chicken For Christmas!”
From there, the phrase became the ho! ho! ho! of Christmas in Japan.
If fried food isn’t your thing, try something sweet. Around this time of year, Japan has got plenty of sweets to satisfy your sweet tooth!
Cakes are very common during the holidays, especially sponge cakes.
Japan also has a knack for making its delicacies stand out as part of its 可愛い文化 （かわいいぶんか, cute culture) so you can’t pass a window without seeing some mouth-watering food.
Be warned, though: many of these are actually サンプル（さんぷる）— samples or fake food meant to draw in customers.
Words of Love and Affection
Christmas is all about love in Japan. It’s like another Valentine’s Day.
In addition to celebrating Valentine’s Day on February 14th, Japan also celebrates its own version of Valentine’s Day, known as ホワイトデー（ほわいとでー）— “White Day” on March 14th.
But when it comes to romance, Christmas takes the cake!
This is because Japan sees Christmas as the symbol of romance, as shown in this retro Japanese Christmas commercial compilation by Japanese Railway (JR) Lines.
Christmas is the perfect time for expressing affection. If you want to get sweet on that special someone, you might as well do it in Japanese:
Just being here with you makes Christmas fun!
I want to be with you always!
Whether we’re together or apart, I’m always thinking of you.
Our love is the perfect Christmas present.
There’s no gift greater than love.
And if you’ll be going out a lot, maybe Santa can give you enough confidence to ask someone out!
Japanese Christmas Media and Pop Culture
Experiencing the Holidays on TV
If you’re not interested in going out (or if you’re not in Japan), stay inside and watch some TV! Japan has got plenty of holiday specials that they broadcast in the spirit of Christmas.
Red and White Singing Competition
The NWK hosts this competition for the New Year. The colors almost remind me of Christmas but the focus is on celebrating the New Year with song. It’s worth watching online if you have access!
Listening to Japanese Christmas Music
Even though Christmas is an imported holiday, Japan has a ton of incredible Christmas music to wake up your holiday spirit. Here are some of the best and most famous Japanese Christmas songs:
“Someday, A Merry Christmas” by B’z, a popular rock duo.
“Christmas Song” by back number, a well-known power rock trio.
“Dear…again” by Kohmi Hirose, although she’s most known for her “get down” song, Promise.
“Merry Christmas” by Bump of Chicken, one of Japan’s most iconic J-rock bands.
We have a list of more Christmas carols in Japanese if you’re looking for even more seasonal music.
Japanese New Year
Unlike Christmas, the New Year is a national holiday. Businesses usually close from the first of January until the third to honor the New Year.
For celebrating the New Year, or お正月 (おしょうがつ), you might use these greetings:
Happy New Year!
You can add ございます to this phrase depending on the person you’re talking to in order to express politeness.
A shorter, more informal way to say: Happy New Year!
A shortened way to say: Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!
Lit. Please treat me well this year too!
Humbly wishing you a Happy New Year.
This is a pretty polite way to speak and is usually written instead of spoken.
You’ll also see New Year’s wishes written as:
Lit., “Spring Begins”
Why do the Japanese mention spring so much? Spring is known as the time when 桜（さくら）”cherry blossoms” are in bloom. This represents a new beginning.
Until 節分（せつぶん), “the coming of spring”, people often prepare for turning over a new leaf. It’s not unlike New Year’s resolutions in other parts of the world.
New Year’s Traditions
From offices to schools, people love gathering to have fun and exchange gifts.
These are karaoke rooms that are rented out for parties. Other than letting you show off your karaoke skills, it’s a fun experience that can also involve giving and receiving gifts.
The first visit of the year to a shrine or temple.
This custom usually involves tons of people gathered around to celebrate the year ending and a new beginning. Like many New Year’s traditions, it’s intended to welcome good fortune for the New Year.
Japanese New Year’s Cards
These are special ways to practice writing Japanese. Brush up on writing kanji by writing thoughtful cards to your friends.
You should know that the Japanese postal system works a little differently from the U.S. one. If you want to send out a card, this visual guide is extremely helpful.
New Year’s bell.
On New Year’s Eve, temples also ring the bell 108 times, which is known as the New Year’s bell. Monks ring it to purify bad spirits and prepare for a good year.
New Year’s Foods
Who doesn’t love Japanese food? You’ll want to get acquainted with some of the words for delicious food in Japan if you ever plan to go.
If you’re in Japan during the holidays, you’re in for a special treat in the form of お節料理（おせちりょうり or traditional Japanese New Year’s dishes.
Japanese lunch boxes, or bento boxes, are a delicious way to celebrate the New Year.
These boxes contain beautifully arranged ingredients such as:
Bento boxes are more savory than sweet, and eating them is said to bring good luck.
New Year’s buckwheat noodles
This is one of the most common New Year’s meals, though there are different recipes and variations on how the noodles are prepared.
sticky rice balls
Japanese sticky rice balls, or mochi, are made by repeatedly beating rice. This delicacy is known for its neutral and nutty taste.
Mochi can take a lot of preparation to make properly. There are plenty of stores where you can buy mochi that’s already been prepared and decorated for you.
Japanese dry sweets include dry candy and cookies, and they are good luck charms commonly eaten at the end of the year. They come in many different flavors and types.