Whether it’s Thanksgiving Day, Sinterklaas, Christmas or New Year’s Day; people get together and celebrate with friends and family. Ever wonder how these holidays are celebrated in different parts of the world?
Canada kicks off with Thanksgiving Day on the second Monday in October. The United States follows the fourth Thursday in November. But did you know that there’s a lot more countries celebrating bountiful harvests?
As crops are harvested at different times of the year, also the harvest festivals are celebrated on different dates in different countries. China for example has the Mid-Autumn or Mooncake Festival on the 15th day of the 8th month of the Chinese lunar calendar (next one up: 29 September 2023).
On the same date, both North Korea and South Korea celebrate Chuseok, with South Korea extending this into a three-day festival.
Argentina has the Fiesta Nacional de la Vendimia, celebrating the grape harvest (for the winemaking industry) in the first week of March.
Fiesta Nacional de la Vendimia
While Thanksgiving Day usually is celebrated with family and an extensive dinner, a lot of Harvest Festivals take place outdoors, with festive celebrations and parades.
Sinterklaas, Święty Mikołaj, Shen’Kollë, Sveti Nikola, Santa Claus… Different names, and different traditions, but all leading back to Saint Nicholas of Myra who lived 1700 years ago. Saint Nicholas is the patron saint of sailors, children and repentant thieves, amongst others. Saint Nicholas Day is observed in various European countries, usually on either 5 or 6 December, as a holiday that has no link with Christmas. In the United States however, Saint Nicholas and Father Christmas merged into Santa Claus.
In some countries, like Albania and Serbia, Saint Nicholas Day is observed as a Christian holiday. In other countries, like the Netherlands and Belgium, it’s a children’s holiday with a focus on receiving presents. In the Netherlands, those presents mysteriously appear at the front door, similar to how in the United States, Santa Claus puts his presents under the Christmas tree.
In countries where Saint Nicholas Day is celebrated as a day of receiving presents, traditionally Christmas is a holiday without presents. Instead, Christmas is about family and Christmas dinners, much like Thanksgiving Day. E.g. in Poland, where, depending on the region, a Christmas dinner often consists of 9, 11 or 12 courses.
New Year’s Eve & Day
In the Gregorian calendar, New Year’s Eve is on 31 December, with 1 January starting the new year. If you want, you can celebrate the New Year all year round, with the Chinese New Year on the new moon between 21 January and 20 February (next one up: 22 January 2023), the Assyrian New Year on 1 April, Songkran in Thailand on 13 April, and the Islamic New Year on the first day of the month of Muharram (next one up: 19 July 2023).
For a long celebration, join the Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, which is a three day celebration. Next one up: 15-17 September 2023.
Thanksgiving, Christmas and the New Year have their own greetings. While the Thanksgiving greeting usually is pretty straightforward (you can’t go wrong with “Happy Thanksgiving”), Christmas and the New Year have more options. Of course because these holidays are celebrated in many countries (so there’s many languages to cover), but also because depending on the person, a Christian greeting for Christmas may or may not be appreciated.
How do you choose the proper greeting for Christmas then?
There’s roughly two choices: greetings for the specific event, or a general greeting covering both Christmas and New Year’s. Especially when Christian traditions aren’t observed, the general greeting instead of the specific Christmas greeting may be preferred as the more neutral option. Here’s a few greetings to help you on your way:
English – Merry Christmas / Happy New Year / Happy Holidays
Chinese – 圣诞快乐 / 新年快乐 / 节日快乐
Danish – Glædelig Jul / Godt nytår / Glade feriedage
Dutch – Vrolijk kerstfeest / Gelukkig nieuwjaar / Prettige feestdagen
German – Frohe Weinachten / Frohes neues Jahr / Frohe Feiertage
Hawaiian – Mele Kalikimak / Hauʻoli Makahiki Hou / Hau’oli Lanui
Irish – Nollaig Shona / Athbhliain faoi mhaise / Laethanta saoire sona
Spanish – Feliz Navidad / Feliz Año Nuevo / Felices Fiestas
Swedish – God Jul / Gott Nytt År / Trevlig Helg
Tagalog (Filipino) – Maligayang Pasko / Manigong Bagong Taon / Masaya pista opisyal
Turkish – Mutlu Noeller / Mutlu yıllar / Mutlu Bayramlar
Mirjam Van Dijk
October 26, 2022