Christmas in English is not for everyone - if only because we often don't understand what Santa Claus wants to say. Do you know what his "grotto" is? How to play Secret Santa? Was there really more "tinsel" in the past? Or how to casually wish "Merry Christmas"?
Do you know the most popular parlor game in the English-speaking world? It is the writing of Christmas cards - at least at the end of the year, to put it in sober German. Putting it soberly in English, its equivalent is festive season. After all, nowadays you never know who celebrates Christmas and how. No one should feel overwhelmed by Christianity any more.
As far as the cards are concerned, the stylistic differences between the Americans and the British are astounding, as always. In the USA, people like to write long and self-centered, in order to retell the past year as a personal heroic story with prosaic flair.
Cards from England, on the other hand, are often short and do not have an "I". King Charles - formerly known as Prince - has been sending out the short sentence: "Wishing you a Happy Christmas and New Year" for decades. Of course he wants to say "Happy New Year". His radically shortened style is strange, almost ironic! Certainly, including last year, he wished for nothing more than to experience next year himself in order to become king.
If you find it too boring to always write Christmas - by the way always with a capital C, like God or the semi-divine I - there are a few more variants in English than in German. In addition to the common abbreviation X-Mas, the language is also used in an old-fashioned way by Yuletide. The holy festival can also be shortened to Crimbo, a British slang. You then wish Happy Crimbo!, even if it sounds like limbo: the intermediate hell - which seems appropriate in view of the consumer frenzy people fall into before Christmas.
Of the numerous laconic Season's greetings I receive from Great Britain every year, the version by my dear colleague Brit from London stood out: "Wishing you all much joy and merriment over Christmas and a good start to the New Year!" Merriment had never been wished for in a Christmas card before!
According to the Oxford English Dictionary, merriment has the meaning of gaiety and fun, i.e. cheerfulness and joy, to exuberance and a lot of fuss. Since Brit wrote this I haven't come across a better English term to sum up the hilarious effort we put on ourselves at the end of each year! Just google "Christmas depression and stress relief tips" - and you will see how large the field of activity is for English-speaking counselors, pastors and neurologists alone.
When I think of the sack full of jokes that people pass around in the great Elf fever in order to get closer to each other with small gifts before Christmas - or to annoy them. In English this has nothing to do with dwarfs like in German. If you're trying to secret Santa with your English-speaking coworkers next year and get stuck with descriptions like "Christmas dwarfing," say, "Let's play Secret Santa!" The whole thing is, so to speak, a secret action by Santa Claus, who, as is well known, goes by the name of "Saint Claus": Santa Claus. He's just the biggest hypocrite I know!
You should also know that Santa Claus dressed in red and white was not invented by Coca-Cola, as has been repeatedly claimed since an advertising campaign by the company in 1931. Rather, he's a European re-import that originated with Saint Nicholas and took various guises in Europe before becoming a sort of Superman for Christmas.
He also appears in a few variants: in the United Kingdom as Father Christmas. In the USA as Kris Kringle – which is a linguistic reinterpretation of the German Christkind. A dwelling that the German Santa Claus has largely been spared is the so-called grotto in British or American department stores.
The Christmas tree also comes from our latitudes. Today it would probably decorate neither the White House in Washington nor Buckingham Palace in London if countless emigrants in the new world had not attached importance to a decorated fir tree. This included Prince Albert, Queen Victoria's German husband, who brought the Christmas tree to the island for the British people some 160 years ago. At the same time, the Christmas tree can still cause great German-English language confusion. For example, when the British and Americans believe that the German word "Tannenbaum" is synonymous with "Weihnachtsbaum" simply because "Oh Tannenbaum" is also part of the standard repertoire of English-language Christmas carols. We, on the other hand, are firmly convinced that an "evergreen" is a well-known song, although in English it is just a fir tree - a fir tree is an evergreen (tree). A well-known song in English, on the other hand, is a popular song or, at Christmas, is simply a Christmas carol, in short: carol. What further complicates the matter with the song "Oh Tannenbaum" is the official anthem - anthem - of the US state of Iowa. Listen!
- First there are the "Christmas presents": Christmas presents or Christmas gifts. In case you are wondering about what poison means to us: The old Germanic word gift still appears with us with the meaning "gift" in the old-fashioned "dowry".
- Süßigkeiten: US kids want candies, UK children want sweets.
- Biscuits and biscuits: Although our word derives from the English cake(s) thanks to Hermann Bahlsen, in the US they say Christmas cookies and in the UK Christmas biscuits. There are also specialties such as ginger bread - a kind of gingerbread - or mince pie.
- Tinsel, even if nobody uses it anymore: tinsel.
- Chain of lights: fairy lights.
- Christmas wreath: Christmas wreath, spoken: [riess]
- Christmas star: poinsettia.
- Cozy warmth and happiness: a warm glow and happiness.
- And a lot of magic and kitsch: a good deal of magic and kitsch.
Finally, I would like to address a crazy British Christmas tradition that I can't think of a better way to describe than "Christmas belly". You carry it in front of you - and it has long since arrived with us. We're talking about the so-called Christmas jumpers: pullovers that look like breastplates that are made from embroidered bedside rugs in order to deter attackers by virtue of their motives. You just can't miss them!
Sometimes Jesus is somehow made fun of, with balloons, beer glasses and inscriptions like Birthday boy, sometimes Santa Claus, for example, who says "Ho ho ho!" calls out and has his coat open, his legs bare and the sign "censored" in front of his privates. It is unclear what such depictions are supposed to say. Maybe it's enough to look at them as evidence of the differences that still exist after at least two centuries: we celebrate, like the English royal family, the "Holy Eve(ning)" - when Christmas begins in English-speaking countries traditionally on December 25 - Christmas Day. This custom inevitably means that people drink alcohol there in the morning and are often quite drunk by midday - so merry.
With this in mind: Merry Christmas!