How to Wish Someone “Merry Christmas” in French

C’est Noël ! It’s Christmas!

In today’s French lesson, you’ll learn how to share your Christmas wishes with your French family, friends, colleagues, and neighbours… all in flawless French!

We’ll discover a couple of common French Christmas greetings, including their correct pronunciation and use.

Learning goals: This is what you’ll be able to do after watching this lesson

  • Beginner: ”Merry Christmas” in French
  • Intermediate: “I wish you a merry Christmas”
  • Advanced: Master the other examples

Bonjour I’m Géraldine, your French teacher.
Welcome to Comme une Française.
I’m here to help you speak everyday modern French with confidence.
C’est parti !

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1) Merry Christmas!

In French, “Merry Christmas” is Joyeux Noël. Noël is “Christmas.”

You can see two little dots on the “ë” — they’re called le tréma. It’s used to separate the sound of vowels when they’re next to each other in a French word. The letter “ë” is called “e tréma” and it’s pronounced like è (= [ay])

Joyeux is “Merry / Joyful / Happy.” It’s a singular, masculine adjective with a silent “x”.

The “y” (called “i grec” = Greek “i”) is used as a “double i” : the word sounds like “Joi” [jwah] + “ieu” [yuh]

All in all, it makes : [Jwah yuh Naw ayl] = Joyeux Noël ! Be sure to watch the video above to get the pronunciation and practice it for yourself.

2) I wish you a Merry Christmas

To wish a Merry Christmas” in French is “Souhaiter un joyeux Noël

Now you only need to choose the subject and the complement to build a sentence:
Subject + Complement + “Souhaiter” in the present + “un joyeux Noël

For the subject, you can pick “Je” (= I) if you’re giving the greeting yourself, or “Nous” if you’re wishing it as a group (as a family, for instance).

The verb “Souhaiter” then becomes:
Je souhaite (= “I wish…”)
Nous souhaitons (= “We wish…”)

For the complement, you can pick “te” (= “you”, 2nd person singular), for someone in particular, or “vous” (= “you”, 2nd person plural) for a group.

The te / vous choice is a strange French grammar trick, so in this case also ties to the choice between Tu (for friends, family, people you’re close to) or Vous (for strangers and people you respect).

So in the end, it can be:
Je te souhaite un joyeux Noël. = I wish you a merry Christmas
→ from yourself to one person you’re close to (your mom, your grandchild, your friend, me!)

Je vous souhaite un joyeux Noël. = I wish you a merry Christmas
→ from yourself to several people, or to one person you say “vous” to so you can be more formal (like your cheese seller, perhaps…)


Nous (te / vous) souhaitons un joyeux Noël. = We wish you a merry Christmas
→ To wish Merry Christmas as a family, like in a Christmas card.

Of course, you can always simply say “Joyeux Noël !” instead 🙂

As an informal, spontaneous expression, “I wish” (as in “I hope so”) is better translated as “J’espère” or “J’espère bien”.

3) Beyond Christmas

Les fêtes de fin d’année (= “Holidays of the end of the year” = “the holiday season”) are often talked about together.

This is a great way to talk about both Noël (= Christmas) and le Nouvel An (= New Year) at the same time… but also to wish “Happy Holidays” to people in France who don’t celebrate Christmas, or celebrate other end of year traditions.

You can also wish happy holidays with:
Bonnes fêtes de fin d’année !
Joyeuses fêtes de fin d’année !

(= Happy Holidays!)

What now?

If you want to learn more, check out the short playlist of videos on Christmas in France that I put together for you.

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And now:

→ If you enjoyed this lesson (and/or learned something new) – why not share this lesson with a francophile friend? You can talk about it afterwards! You’ll learn much more if you have social support from your friends 🙂

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Allez, salut 🙂

Join the conversation!

  • Joyeux Noel Geraldine et bonnes fetes de fin d’annee 🙂
    J’ai un question. Est-ce que je peux dire on te/vous souhaites un joyeux Noel ou est-ce qu’on est un peu trop colloquial pour une carte de Noel par exemple?

  • Une petite question Geraldine. Je voudrais savoir un peu plus sur “I wish”. Je me demande pourqoui c’est inclus dans la leçon, comment l’utiliser dans ce contexte.

    Merci pour l’explication de ‘joyeux’. Cela m’a fasciné.

  • Excellent, comme d’habitude, Géraldine. Je suis très heureux que vous avez passé un bon séjour en Normandie et je vous souhaite un bon fin d’année, joyeux Noël et une bonne année 2020.

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