As it is the Christmas season, I figured it would be best for me to post something relating to it. As a lover of words, I have to look up the meaning of common phrases. And all too often, people say phrases out of tradition, or common use, and have no clear idea of what that phrase actually means. If I was to tell someone “Merry Christmas” on the streets, I might get a “Merry Christmas” in return, or I might get some glares or stares or a “happy holidays”. But I’m not referring to many celebrations, but to Christmas. However, if I were to say “Feliz Navidad”, I might be considered well cultured, or a liberal who is attempting at being tolerant. Either way, I am talking about the same event even though one is supposedly more politically correct than the other. You see, both sayings refer to Christ’s birth. Obviously for Christians, or anyone really because it is a religious holiday, Christmas is the celebration of our Saviour’s birth. He is the Christ, or Messiah, so we call it Christmas.
So what does “Feliz Navidad” have to do with this? Well, Feliz is the Spanish word for “happy”. This word, as the romance-languages do, comes from the Latin. The root word is felix, which means “happy”. From this word we get the names Felix and Felicity, as well as words like felicitous and felicitate. The second word is navidad, meaning both “birth” and Nativity”. Again, this comes from the Latin. Nativitas meaning “birth”, formerly nativus meaning “born or native”. Related is natus meaning “born”, and nascor meaning “I am born”. From this word we derive natal, native, natural, nature, and obviously, Nativity and Navidad. In the Spanish, when the word Navidad is capitalized, it specifically prefers to the birth of Christ.
Thus, saying Feliz Navidad is more than just saying “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Holidays”, it literally means “Happy Birth of Christ”. Honestly, I think that’s pretty special. Whether people realize it or not, that is what they are saying. And I am glad that this is a tradition that has not died yet. It helps put the focus back on Christ and why He came here. It reminds us that this season is about His coming to give His life, not about us getting material things.
Feliz Navidad, my dear readers, And may Christ’s peace be with you this happy season.
As with anything I discuss concerning etymology, these words and snippets of definitions came from the Oxford English dictionary. However, all is my own work.