Happy Celtic Holidays!

Diolchgarwch hapus i chi! (That’s ‘Happy Thanksgiving’ in Welsh!)

While working on the Celtic Institute’s Facebook page last week, I came across a great post from Learn Manx listing a number of useful words and phrases for Christmas greetings in Manx Gaelic. Now that Thanksgiving Day is behind us — several weeks behind us, for our Canadian friends! — many of us are looking ahead to the Christmas season. For those who would like to add a Celtic touch to their holiday cards, here is how to say “Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!” (or its nearest equivalent) in each of the six modern Celtic languages:

  • Scottish Gaelic: Nollaig Chridheil agus Bliadhna Mhath Ùr!
  • Irish Gaelic: Nollaig Shona agus Athbhlian faoi Mhaise Duit! (addressing one person); Nollaig Shona agus Athbhlian faoi Mhaise Daoibh! (addressing more than one person)
  • Manx Gaelic: Nollick Ghennal as Blein Vie Noa!
  • Welsh: Nadolig Llawen a Blwyddyn Newydd Dda!
  • Cornish: Nadelik Lowen ha Bledhen Nowyth Da!
  • Breton: Nedeleg Laouen ha Bloavezh Mat!

One of the things I love about seeing these phrases side by side is the opportunity it provides to spot the similarities, differences, and relationships between the Celtic languages. For instance, the first three languages in the list (Scottish Gaelic, Irish, and Manx) all have more or less the same word for ‘Christmas’: despite the difference in spelling, Manx Nollick is pronounced much the same as Scottish Gaelic Nollaig. Welsh, Cornish, and Breton all use a slightly longer word for ‘Christmas’ (Nadolig, Nadelik, Nedeleg) and have similar words for ‘happy’ or ‘merry’ (llawen, lowen, laouen). And where Irish Gaelic speakers wish people a ‘prosperous’ or ‘flourishing’ (faoi mhaise) New Year, the other five languages simply use a word that means ‘good’ (math, mie, mat, or da, sometimes with a change to the initial consonant).

If this list of Celtic holiday greetings has made you curious about these beautiful — and endangered — languages, why not make a New Year’s resolution to learn a bit of Irish, Welsh, Breton, Gaelic, Cornish, or Manx? Contact the Celtic Institute using the form below for more information about upcoming classes or one-on-one tutoring!