The recent Feast of the Immaculate Conception on December 8 marks the start of Christmas season in Italy, and by now holiday cheer has come full force. Lights are strung, presepe are placed out for all to see, and Italians strolling the streets begin wishing each other merriment (read all about Italian Christmas traditions here). The words for these wishes are as lovely as the decorations themselves, and the musical sounds of the Italian language echo through the streets. Below is your guide to common Italian holiday words and phrases that you can use to fill the air (or to add a different musical quality to the season besides repeat radio Christmas music!).
First thing’s first. Whether you are writing a Christmas card or greeting a friend, you’ll want to know these holiday phrases to bring good tidings to your friends and loved ones:
- Buon Natale! (bwon nah-TAH-lay): Literally meaning “good Christmas, ” this is the typical Merry Christmas greeting.
- Buon Capodanno! (bwon cah-poh-DAHN-noh): Again, pretty basic, meaning “Happy New Year!”
- Buone Feste (BWON-ay fest-tay): Include all celebrations taking place this time of year by using the Italian version of “Happy Holidays!”
- Ready for the advanced level? Try this one: Auguri di un buon Natale e felice anno nuovo. (Ah-GOOR-ee dee bwon nah-TAH-lay ay Feh-LEE-chay AHN-noh NWOH-voh) This is the typical phrase you will see on cards, meaning “Best Wishes for a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.”
The holidays are just that partly because of the mountains of goodies that fill our dreams and tables. Here are some of the most typical Italian cibi, or foods that dance in the heads of Italians during this season:
- Torrone (tor-ROH-nay): a typical holiday confection made with honey, sugar and egg white, which includes variations that are both hard and soft and are filled with nuts, chocolate, vanilla, or other flavorings.
- Panettone (pahn-nay-TOH-nay): a traditional holiday cake made of sweet bread and filled with dried fruits.
- Tortellini in brodo (tor-tay-LEE-nee een BROH-doh): a Christmas dish of tortellini in broth particularly typical of the Emiglia-Romagna region.
The several holiday toasts that you’ll be making with – just choose which region you’re feeling like representing that day.
- Salute! (sah-LOO-tay): This well-wishing Italian Christmas “cheers” literally means “health” and can be easily compared to the English “to your health.”
- Cin Cin! (chin-chin): This toast is most likely to mimic the sound of the glasses clinking during a happy occasion.
- Prost! (prOHst): The German-speaking region of Alto Adige uses this common German toast to raise their glass to health and happiness.