December 19, 2018

“Christmas” in different languages – the meaning behind the words

Christmas is coming, and many of us are excitedly preparing for it.  But beyond the presents, food, family gatherings and decorations, have you ever stopped to wonder where the word “Christmas” comes from, what it really means, and what its meaning is in other languages?  This post looks at the origins of the word for “Christmas” in the languages you can study at BLS.  Many of them are similar, so we will group them by meaning.  We would love to hear more, if you know the word for Christmas in any other languages.  Please add them in the comments if you do.

Nadal / Natal / Natale / Navidad / Boże Narodzenie / Рождества /

The word for “Christmas” in Catalan is “Nadal”.  It comes from the Latin, nātālis [diēs Dominī], or the “birthday of the Lord”.  This is similar in the Portuguese “Natal”, “Natale” in Italian and “Navidad” (similar to the English, “nativity”, the feast celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ”) in Spanish.  The Polish term, “Boże Narodzenie” also means “the holy birth”.  This on its own can be used for “Christmas”, but “Święta Bożego Narodzenia” (“celebration of the holy birth”) is the full version.  The Russian (“С рождеством Христовым!”  “S rozhdyestvom Hristovym!”) has the same root (it means “Congratulations on the birth of Christ!”).  “Merry Christmas” in Chinese is “圣诞快乐(Shèngdàn kuàilè)”, meaning “to be happy at the birth of a saint”.  In Arabic  it is “عيد ميلاد المسيح” (“‘eed milaad al-maseeH”), “celebration of birth of the-Messiah”.


There is some debate about the origin of the French “Noël” (which also exists in English, without the umlauts (in songs like “The First Noel”)).   The roots of the English word are in the French “noël” anyway, and this may come from the Old French “nael”, deriving from the Latin “natalis”, meaning “birth”, as above.  Other commentators think that it may come from the French “nouvelles”, meaning “news”, as in the news of Christ being born.

Weinachten / Vánoce

The German “Weinachten” comes from Middle High German “zeden wīhen nahten” (“in the holy nights”).  In German, “Weihnachten” can be the singular or plural form.  It is plural in the greetings “Frohe, gesegnete, schöne … Weihnachten” but singular in sentences like “Weihnachten ist ein christliches Fest” (“Christmas is a Christian celebration”.)  The Czech, “Vánoce” is a borrowing from this.

Kerstmis / Christmas / クリスマス

The Dutch “Kerstmis” (or simply “Kerst”) and English “Christmas” come from the same root, the celebration (holy mass) of Christ.  The Japanese version “クリスマス” (“Kurisumasu”) is borrowed from the English.

Suzannah Young

As the festive time is approaching, we would like to wish you all a very Merry Christmas, Veselé Vánoce! / Счастливого Рождества! (Schastlivogo Rozhdestva) / С рождеством Христовым!  (S rozhdyestvom Hristovym!) / Wesołych świąt Bożego Narodzenia! / Feliz Navidad! / Buon Natale! / Joyeux Noël! / Bon Nadal! / Feliz Natal! / Fröhliche Weihnachten! / Zalige Kerstdagen! / Merry Christmas! メリークリスマス (Merīkurisumasu) /圣诞快乐 (Shèngdàn kuàilè) / عيد ميلاد المسيح” (‘eed milaad al-maseeH). We hope that you enjoy your well-deserved break!

With love,

BLS Team

December 12, 2018

Book review: Wabi-Sabi Welcome by Julie Pointer Adams

Each moment is worth basking in because it won’t be with us forever. Julie Pointer Adams

I have been reading this book every evening this autumn. Yes, it was a real treat for me: I was waiting for this moment every day, to read another few pages and to experience wabi-sabi through reading this publication. This book resonates with my reading taste, especially when it comes to reading about creating a cosy and comfortable home and, in this particular instance, how to prepare your home and yourself for having guests. The photographs are unique, simple, yet so beautiful. I would often leaf through the book to analyse in detail the photos and their authentic and intimate character.

So, what is wabi-sabi, you may think? Wabi-sabi is a Japanese concept which is built of two separate words, wabi and sabi. “Wabi means something like simplicity, humility, and living in tune with nature”. (18) “Sabi, on the other hand, refers to what happens with the passage of time; it’s about transience and the beauty and authenticity of age.” (18) We can think of wabi-sabi as being perfectly imperfect, as “beauty found in unusual, unfashionable places or objects, and in moments usually overlooked or unappreciated.” (11) The book is divided into 5 chapters and the author doesn’t only visit Japan to experience wabi-sabi, she travels to Denmark, California, France and Italy to find this unique way of life there, too.  Each experience brings us closer to the concept of wabi-sabi: in Japan it can be the joy of sharing simple and nourishing food; in Denmark, the rituals, nearly sacred, of having coffee breaks with your friends (called fika in Sweden); in California, being together in the kitchen and letting your friends participate in cooking; in France we can learn to say c’est la vie, if the situation is less than ideal, and adopt a more natural and organic approach to everything (joie de vivre – the joy of living) and in Italy, spending time together (insieme), going for a walk, eating ice-cream or having a big celebration and appreciating each other’s company.

As you can see, it’s difficult not to fall in love with wabi-sabi and I think the book could be a perfect Christmas gift for yourself or your loved ones. Reading it will beautifully fill long wintery evenings…

Do you know the concept of wabi-sabi? How do you experience it in your life? Do let me know in the comments below.


Julie Pointer Adams, Wabi-Sabi Welcome, New York 2017: Artisan.

Kinga Macalla

December 5, 2018

Interview with Christina Andersen on bilingualism

Hello Christina, shall we start with a short introduction? Can you say a few words about yourself?

My name is Christina and I am Danish. I lived in Denmark for the first 21 years of my life but I’d always felt drawn to England. I moved to the UK with the hope of practising my English and of course having a bit of adventure When I was 21.
I lived with 2 Danish friends in Birmingham for two years then when I was 23 I went to visit a friend in Bristol and met my now husband Ed and for the next 13 years beautiful Bristol was my home.
It was never in my plans to stay in the UK but after buying a house, setting up a gym, having two children and getting married it was never in my plans to leave.
We created and amazing life with lots of friends and clients and some businesses that we really loved.
In 2017 my dad became very sick with cancer, he had had it for 3 years but now it looked like he was losing the fight.
We decided to visit him and my mum in their home just north of Copenhagen, while we were there we were walking on the beach and talking about what life would be like if we moved to Denmark.
We decided to give it ago because we wanted to be closer to my mum as we knew she would be alone soon, but we also wanted to bring our kids up with more freedom, more nature and more time with us.
100 days after that walk on the beach we were in Denmark ready for a new adventure. We are now just over one year in and truly identifying as a bilingual family.

You’re a bilingual family now living in Denmark, can you tell us more about the languages your family speak and how you approach bilingualism on a daily basis?

We speak English and Danish as a family now. It never really materialised in the UK despite my efforts. Now a year into our Denmark adventure and the girls (4 and 7) are both bilingual.
I think to say we have an approach would be an over statement. We speak which ever language fits at the time. My husband is trying to learn Danish from apps but without attending classes it’s hard to speak Danish for an adult. The Danes are so good at English that they tend to switch as soon as then notice you’re English. When my mum visits she will only talk to the girls in Danish which is really nice.

How did you come up with the decision to have a bilingual family? Was it a natural consequence or rather a thought-through process?

When I knew I was going to have children with Ed I was definitely keen to have a bilingual family. I think it is such an advantage. I think it goes much deeper than just words. I think when you learn a new language, especially at a young age you learn about different cultures and different labels and different approaches to the world. I think it provides a way of seeing the world that you cannot teach in any other way. I wish more schools would teach languages from the beginning.

Bilingualism is a wonderful gift, what benefits do you see in bringing up your children bilingually?

I have to step outside of proud mum for a minute here I think. My girls are both incredibly kind, thoughtful, happy, they know what they want and they are both a calming influence on the children around them. I both see this and am told it often by teachers and friends.
With all of that said I really couldn’t say that this is due to our parenting, their lovely teachers at Silverhill school in Winterbourne, there lovely teachers here in Copenhagen or their bilingualism. It’s likely a combination of all of the above and no doubt a bit of luck too.

Bilingualism is also a complex phenomenon, what are the biggest challenges you face as a bilingual family?

I’m not sure we have encountered any challenges. My husband Ed often needs a translation or gets a little left out sometimes but I think he would say that’s sometimes and inventive and sometimes a blessing.

What’s one piece of advice you’d give to future parents wanting to have a bilingual family?

I’m not sure I see myself as qualified to give advice. Something I know from health coaching that I have applied to bringing up my children is, you can’t force, shame, or discipline your children into habits. If you want it to happen it has to be fun.

Many thanks for taking time to be our interview guest today, Christina. Where can we find you online?

You can find my on
My website:

Photos: Lidia from Visuable