How to say 'Happy Christmas' in Irish
Here are a few nice and easy ways to wish someone a 'Happy Christmas' in Irish. Read on for a little more information about each of these greetings.
1. Nollaig shona duit
Nollaig shona duit / Happy Christmas (lit. Christmas happy to you!)
How to pronounce 'duit':
You might notice in the video above that the word 'duit' isn't pronounced with a 'd' sound at the start of the word!
That might seem a little odd, but this is the way the word 'duit' is generally pronounced in Connacht Irish. The sound at the start of the word 'duit' in Connacht Irish doesn't even exist in English, so it might take a little practice to get it right!
It's perhaps a little easier to say 'duit' in other dialects as the 'd' sound is very similar to the 'd' in English.
A little grammar tip:
Adjectives following feminine nouns in Irish will be lenited if possible (i.e. a 'h' will be inserted)
Sona / happy
Remember that these 'h's' are not just for decoration! They mark a sound change.
The 's' sound of 'sona' is changed and 'shona' now sounds more like 'hunna'!
2. Nollaig faoi shéan is faoi mhaise duit
This is another great way to wish someone a merry Christmas in Irish.
Séan (n.b. Séan not Seán!) is the Irish word for 'luck' or 'prosperity' and 'maise' means 'beauty' or 'flourishing'.
faoi shéan (lit. under prosperity)
faoi mhaise (lit. under beauty)
It's the equivalent of wishing someone a prosperous Christmas in English.
In this greeting the word 'is' is a shortened form of 'agus' (and).
3. Go raibh Nollaig mhór mhaith agat
If you already know how to say 'thank you' in Irish you'll understand this phrase!
Go raibh maith agat / Thank you (lit. may good be at you)
Go raibh Nollaig mhór mhaith agat / Happy Christmas (lit. may a good big Christmas be at you / i.e. may you have a good big Christmas)
In this greeting 'go raibh' means 'may'. (For anyone interested in technical terms this is the 'subjunctive mood' of the verb 'bí' (be) - used when expressing wishes, desires etc).
You'll notice also the sound change:
maith / good
mór / big
(By the way, in Munster dialect 'mhaith' and 'mhór' are prounced as if beginning with a 'v' sound, rather than the Connacht 'w' sound: 'v-aith' / 'v-ór')
4. Beannachtaí na Nollag ort
Beannachtaí na Nollag ort / The blessings of Christmas on you
Here are some more variations
Beannachtaí na féile ort / Blessings of the feast on you (féile / festival, festivities)
Beannachtaí an tséasúir ort / Blessings of the season on you
5. Go mbeire muid beo ar an am seo arís
This one isn't strictly a Christmas greeting, but it is very traditionally said around Christmas time, particularly at the Christmas dinner.
This is more like a toast and is a way to say 'let us be alive this time again.'
Replying to Christmas greetings
If someone wishes you a happy Christmas in Irish you can simply reply by saying:
Go raibh maith agat / Thank you
Or you might say:
Go mba hé duit / The same to you
Wishing a 'Happy Christmas' to more than one person in Irish
Note that all of the greetings above are used when addressing just one person. If you want to say 'Happy Christmas' to more than one person than use 'daoibh' instead of 'duit' and 'oraibh' instead of 'ort.'
This is what to say when speaking to more than one person:
Nollaig shona daoibh
Nollaig faoi shéan is faoi mhaise daoibh
Go raibh Nollaig mhór mhaith agaibh
Beannachtaí na Nollag oraibh
Check out another Christmas related blog post here, about 'Cuairt San Nioclás' / the visit of St. Nicholas!