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Merry Christmas in Italian (Buon Natale) – Pronunciation, Variations, & Traditions

Christmas is one of our most important holidays here in Italy. December 25th is il giorno di Natale, and to celebrate, we come together with our families and sit for hours around the table eating delicious food prepared with love.

The jolly atmosphere of Christmas makes Italians nicer than ever! You can easily find people you don’t know wishing you Merry Christmas while waiting in line at the post office or leaving the grocery stores.

Whether you’re traveling in Italy during the holidays or attending a Christmas dinner with your Italian relatives, you’ll want to know how to say Merry Christmas in Italian. 

How to Wish Someone a Merry Christmas in Italian

There are many ways to wish someone a Merry Christmas in Italian. You can use these phrases on informal and formal occasions:

Buon Natale

Buon Natale is the most common Italian phrase used to wish someone a Merry Christmas. The Italian term natale comes from the Latin natalem (birth), as part of the sentence natālem Christi (day of birth of Christ).

Although Christmas is a religious festivity, today it’s celebrated by almost everyone in Italy, and it has almost entirely lost its religious meaning.

Felice Natale

Usually used in the phrase ti auguro un felice Natale.  Translated literally, it’s ‘I wish you a happy Christmas.’ The Italian word felice means happy, and if you want to wish a felice natale to more than one person, you can say vi auguro un felice Natale.

Buone Feste

Buone feste corresponds to the English ‘Happy Holidays.’ It’s used when you want to wish someone a happy holiday season (not just Christmas).

Tanti Auguri di Buone Feste

Tanti auguri di buone feste means ‘best wishes for a happy holiday season.’  Again, it’s a general phrase used to wish someone more than just a ‘Merry Christmas’ – also a great Christmas Eve, Santo Stefano Day, and New Year’s Eve.

Ti Auguro Buon Natale

Ti auguro Buon Natale means ‘I wish you a Merry Christmas.’ If you want to say it to more people, use vi (plural for ‘you’) instead of ti: Vi auguro Buon Natale

Good to Know:  If it’s written (like in a greeting card), you’ll often see it written with unTi auguro un Buon Natale or Vi auguro un Buon Natale.  But, without the un is also grammatically correct.

Buon Natale a Te e Tutta La Tua Famiglia

Buon Natale a te e tutta la tua famiglia translates to Merry Christmas to you and your family.’ This is an informal sentence that you can use with both friends and acquaintances. Italians tend to be formal only with people they don’t know at all or with elders. In these more formal cases, you can say Buon Natale a Lei e tutta la sua famiglia.

Auguro a Tutti Voi un Sereno Natale

Slightly more formal, Auguro a tutti voi un sereno Natale is written more often than spoken. With this phrase, you are saying ‘best wishes for a serene and peaceful Christmas.’

I Miei Più Sentiti Auguri di Buon Natale

I miei più sentiti auguri di Buon Natale translates to ‘My best wishes for a Merry Christmas.’

In summary, to wish someone a Merry Christmas in Italy, you can say:

ITALIANENGLISH
Buon Natale!Merry Christmas!
Ti (Vi) auguro un felice Natale!I wish you (all of you) a happy Christmas!
Buone Feste!Happy Holidays!
Tanti auguri di buone feste!Best wishes for a happy holiday season!
Ti (Vi) auguro Buon Natale!I wish you (all of you) a Merry Christmas!
Buon Natale a te (Lei) e tutta la tua (sua) famiglia!Merry Christmas to you and your family!
Auguro a tutti voi un sereno Natale!I wish you all a serene Christmas!
I miei più sentiti auguri di Buon Natale!My best wishes for a Merry Christmas!

When to Say Merry Christmas to Someone in Italy

As you can see, in Italian we have many different phrases to wish Merry Christmas to someone.  Some phrases work best on certain occasions during the holiday season:

Here in Italy, we typically only wish Buon Natale to someone on Christmas Day. If you meet a person you know, or you want to be nice to a stranger, before December 25th, you should say Buone Feste, a more general ‘happy holidays.’

For example, many Italians go Christmas shopping (for gifts and food) a week or so before Christmas Day.  When we leave the shop, we say Buone Feste!

It’s also customary to wish Buone Feste to work colleagues before the holiday break, when you see someone you know on the street, or to friends when you meet them at an aperitivo or for dinner.

If attending a Christmas Eve dinner or a Christmas lunch, you wish Buon Natale to the host as soon as you arrive; other occasions of wishing a Merry Christmas are when you exchange gifts and during the toast made at the aperitivo before the Christmas lunch.

During the period from December 26th (Santo Stefano Day) to December 31st, Italians don’t wish each other Merry Christmas anymore.  As the New Year approaches, the wishes are all about the Anno Nuovo (the new year that is about to arrive).

Learn how to say Happy New Year in Italian!

How to Respond When Someone Wishes You a Merry Christmas in Italian

Any of the below responses are appropriate when someone wishes you a Merry Christmas in Italian:

ITALIANENGLISH
Grazie!Thank you!
Grazie, anche a te!Thank you, you too! (informal)
Grazie, anche a Lei!Thank you, you too! (formal)
Grazie, anche a Voi!Thank you, you too! (plural; also used instead of ‘Lei’ in the south of Italy in formal situations)
Grazie, altrettanto!Thank you, same to you! (This is the most common way to respond to someone.)  
Buon Natale anche a te!Merry Christmas to you too! (singular)
Buon Natale anche a Lei!Merry Christmas to you too! (formal)
Buone feste anche a voi!Merry Christmas to you too! (plural, informal; also used as a formal singular form in South Italy)

How to Write Merry Christmas in Italian

Writing Christmas Card Messages in Italian

If you want to wish someone a Merry Christmas in Italian in a letter or greeting card, you can write:

Caro/a [name],  
Ti Auguro un Buon Natale.
Con affetto, 
[your name]  

Dear (male/female) [receiver’s name],
I wish you a Merry Christmas.
Affectionately Yours,
[your name]  

Another message you can write in a greeting card could be:

Caro/a [name],  
Buon Natale e un augurio di buona salute e tanta felicità! 
Un grande abbraccio,   
[your name] 

Dear (male/female) [receiver’s name],
Merry Christmas and a wish for good health and happiness!
A big hug,
[your name] 

A classic message is to wish someone a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year:

Caro/a [name],    
Buon Natale  e felice anno nuovo! 
Con affetto,  
[your name] 

Dear (male/female) [receiver’s name],
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!
Affectionately Yours,
[your name] 

If you are looking for a way to write a formal letter, here’s an example:

Gentile [nome],   
Auguro a Lei e alla Sua famiglia un sereno Natale.  
[your name]      

Dear [receiver’s name],
I wish you and your family a serene Christmas.
[your name]      

Another message you could write is:

Gentilissimo [nome],  
Colgo l’occasione di queste feste per augurare a Lei e alla Sua famiglia ogni bene e serenità.
Buon Natale,
[your name]

Dearest [receiver’s name],
On the occasion of these festivities, I wish you and your family all the best.
Merry Christmas,
[your name]

Email Merry Christmas Messages in Italian

To wish Merry Christmas by email, you can use the same structure and phrases that you will use in a letter or greeting card.

WhatsApp or Text Message Merry Christmas Greetings in Italian

Texts are usually more informal than letters and emails. If you want to wish Buone Feste or Buon Natale to friends or family members, sending a fun text with emojis or a more personal phrase is a great idea!

Italians love sending WhatsApp messages, videos, and memes on Christmas Day to friends and family. 

Sample Christmas Greetings to send by WhatsApp or text message:

Che la dolce magia del Natale sia sempre con te!  
May the sweet magic of Christmas always be with you!

Che la festa più bella dell’anno porti nei vostri cuori pace, amore e serenità. Buon Natale!
May the most beautiful holiday of the year bring peace, love and serenity to your hearts. Merry Christmas!

Possano la gioia e la felicità di questi giorni restare con te per tutto l’anno. Buon Natale!
May the joy and happiness of these days remain with you throughout the year. Merry Christmas!

How Do Italians Celebrate Christmas?

Now you know how we send Christmas greetings, but are you curious about what we actually do on Christmas?

Italians spend Christmas Day with their families, eating and having fun together. Whether celebrating at home or in a restaurant, food is the center of Italian Christmas!

We sit at the table for hours and hours, and once we are done eating, we keep celebrating by playing board games, chatting, going for a walk, or watching a film.  Depending on the family, gifts may be unwrapped on Christmas Eve, on Christmas morning, or after Christmas lunch.

Italian Words and Phrases for Christmas

Presepe made of wood in Ortisei, Italy.
presepe

Presepenativity scene

Pandoro – typical Christmas cake from Verona, but eaten everywhere in Italy

Panettone – typical Christmas cake from Milan, but eaten everywhere in Italy

DicembreDecember

Albero di natale – Christmas tree

Cenone – big dinner (our Christmas Eve dinner, the Cenone della Vigilia)

La calza – stocking

Mercatino di Natale – Christmas market

Babbo Natale – Santa Claus / Father Christmas

Calendiario dell’Avvento – advent calendar

Canti di Natale – Christmas carols

Giorno di Natale – Christmas Day

Vigilia di Natale – Christmas Eve

Lettera a Babbo Natale – letter to Santa Claus

Regali – gifts

Spending the holidays in Italy? Or just curious about how we celebrate here? Check out our Christmas posts:
Where to Spend Christmas in Italy
Christmas in Italy for Kids – Traditions & How to Celebrate

How to Say Merry Christmas in Italian
Traditional Italian Christmas Foods

Traditional Italian Christmas Lunch
Authentic Italian Christmas Eve Dinner

Pandoro vs Panettone

Presepe – The Italian Nativity Scene
Babbo Natale – Italy’s Santa Claus
La Befana – Italy’s Christmas Witch
12 Italian Christmas Traditions We Still Celebrate
Where to Buy a Christmas Tree in Italy
10 Best Places to See Christmas Trees in Italy

FAQ

How do you say ‘Merry Christmas and Happy New Year’ in Italian?

Buon Natale e Felice Anno Nuovo is the literal translation of ‘Merry Christmas and Happy New Year,’ but you’ll hear more often Buone Feste, which means ‘Happy Holidays.’