What is Christmas called in Italy? – The meaning of “Natale”

Today’s word is part of our Italian Christmas Word Advent Calendar series. Each day throughout December, we’ll post a word or phrase that is related to the holiday season. Enjoy!

Christmastime is upon us yet again, and if you are studying Italian, you may well be wondering what Christmas is called in Italy!

(masculine noun)


natale - christmas

Unlike the English word Christmas, there is no explicit mention of Christ, but instead a direct reference to his birth (nascita). Indeed, the etymology of the term Natale can be traced back to Latin Natāle(m), an ellipses of diem natālem Christi (“the day of the birth of Christ”), which in turn comes from the Latin adjective natalis, in the sense of “something concerning birth“.

Some common terms associated with Natale include:

È arrivato il Natale!

Christmas is here!

young girl sitting next to Santa Claus who is reading her wish list
Babbo Natale – Santa Claus

Outside of the Christmas sphere, natale is predominantly used as an adjective meaning “of one’s birth” or “native” as in the terms città natale (hometown), paese natale (native land) and anno natale (birth year). In literary Italian, however, it also refers to “the day of one’s birth” or, in its plural form natali, birth or origin.

A popular proverb in Italian is Natale con i tuoi, Pasqua con chi vuoi which literally translates as Christmas with your family, Easter with whoever you want. I’m not sure I’d agree, but who’s to argue with an age-old saying! 😉

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