Exploring the Words of Christmas in Many Languages!

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Let’s explore the words of Christmas – in many languages!

In English, Christmas obviously is a contraction of Christ’s Mass.  Early Christians most probably chose the time around the 25th of December because it was approximately 9 months after the date they believed the Archangel Gabriel came to Mary to announce Jesus’ arrival.

Coincidentally, the date fell during the time of the Roman Winter Solstice celebrations dedicated the the God Saturn called Saturnalia.    Along with huge feasts,  Romans also gave each other gifts .(sound familiar?)   And as the Empire became increasingly Christian, Saturnalia turned into the feast of the birth of Christ.

As the Western world became more and more Christian and more and more peoples converted, Christmas celebrations were adapted from pagan rituals, winter festivals celebrating the return of the sun morphed into days dedicated to the Christ child.

There are few places in the world where Christmas is celebrated as well as in Northern Europe. Our traditions of the Christmas tree and the wreath come from Northern Europe.  Also Santa Claus or Sinter Klaas (from Dutch) come also from these regions.

As tribes of Goths, Teutons, Franks and Frisians were converted to Christianity, their lively and boisterous Solstice celebrations began to celebrate Christmas.  Jul, or geol (pronounced yool) was the name Scandinavians gave to the winter time.  And still today they wish each other, God Jul (got yool) or Merry Christmas.  The Yule log traditions come from them as well.  A huge log or even a whole tree that would burn for a week of the celebration representing the light from the sun.

In Spain and Italy, the words for Christmas refer to birth. La Navidad in Spanish and Natale (Nat Ah lay) in Italian.  In French, Noël is also related to the word for birth in Latin, natalis, and its latter form nael.  In German, Weihnachten means ‘holy night’.

In southern Europe, the nativity scene is the main Christmas ornament and is a tradition attributed to St. Francis of Assisi.  He is credited with creating the first Christmas scenes first with live humans and then with small, carved figurines.

Time to go a-waisaling!  Merry Christmas everyone!

PS.  Waissail is from Anglo-Saxon, wæs hæl, and means ‘be healthy”

 

 

 

 

 

 

Robert Aiudi
Robert Aiudi, a.k.a., The Language Chef, has been known to his friends and family as a “language junkie” nearly his entire life. He is fluent in many, conversational in others and can fake it through another large amount of some of the most exotic languages in the world. He has taught and tutored many happy students, and annoyed people over the years by asking "how do you say that?".

From his young years surrounded by speakers of three different dialects of Italian, to university in France and German and extensive work in Asia, China, Taiwan, Japan, Robert has picked up languages and breathed in the cuisines of many countries. Translating from 27 languages into English, Robert is a repository of anecdotal and factual information about languages of all sorts which adds flavor and depth to the Language Chef.

An expert amateur cook, Robert has worked in Paris in small bistro, made pizzas in Florence, wrangled recipes out of the hands of German grandmothers in the Black Forest, worked in a Chinese restaurant and had ad hoc cooking lessons in restaurants in China, Taiwan and Japan as well as various Chinatowns. Most importantly, Robert, his mom and dad, two grandmothers and lots of aunts from Italy have made culinary magic in their kitchens for generations.
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