The holiday trim and lights already are being prepped and strung across the ancient city streets of Italy. Mountains of panettone (Italian holiday sweet bread) dominate the supermarkets. Christmas and New Year’s are quickly approaching, and the exchange of Italian holiday greetings is ramping up.
Let’s talk about the most often-used Italian holiday greetings…
Buone Feste – Happy Holidays
When in doubt, go with this one. It’s the catch-all for the season and even can be used up through Befana Day on January 6th (the day when the good witch Befana delivers presents to well-behaved Italian children).
Buon Natale – Merry Christmas
Pretty straightforward, and used more specifically as Christmas Day gets closer.
Buon Anno – Happy New Year
Of all the Italian holiday greetings this is the one that can veer into a completely different meaning if it isn’t pronounced correctly. If you’ve been learning to speak Italian, you’ll already know the importance, when pronouncing double consonants, of the ever-so-slight pause between the two to ensure the listener doesn’t misconstrue what you’re saying. In this case, if you don’t emphasize the two n’s you’re not wishing someone “Happy New Year”, you’re saying “Happy Anus”. But, don’t worry, no one is going to belt you for the mistake. Italians smile or laugh to themselves (like my neighbor did in Umbria when my sister thought she’d just wished him Happy New Year (we still tease her about it)).
Auguri – Best Wishes
Here’s the thing with this one––you pair this with one of the aforementioned Italian holiday greetings. Auguri alone just comes off a bit odd. It needs context. Best wishes for what? For example, you’d string “Buone Feste! Auguri!” together,
Responding to Italian holiday greetings in the right manner is equally as important
This is where a lot of people, especially English speakers can get tripped up. If someone wishes you “Buon Natale” and you respond only with “Grazie” and walk away, it can be viewed as abrupt and a tad “maleducato” (rude). The full exchange of greetings is important in Italy, and not just during the holidays.
Altrettanto – Also to you.
Once you’ve trained your ear, you’ll hear this used a lot, after you’ve extended you best wishes. You’ll also hear this from Italians when you’re parting and you’ve wished them a nice day.
When you use this response yourself, after someone has said “Buone feste” you’ll often earn a smile of appreciation for having learned a language convention that many novices of the language miss. So, your full response could be “Grazie, altrettano. Arriverderci.” (It doesn’t hurt to add a proper goodbye.
Anche a voi, anche a te, anche a lei
These all are ways of saying “And to you”. The first is accepted when speaking to you plural. The latter two are for you singular (te being familiar, lei being formal).
And that, my friends, is the short story on Italian holiday greetings. Have fun and jump right in!