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Before yet another year slowly comes to a close and we take some time off to spend with family and friends, most of us in the business world reflect on the past year and our successful cooperation with our partners. We wish to express our gratitude and good wishes for the future.

But – have you ever asked yourself if by sending your foreign friend or business partner holiday greetings you may have inadvertently made a faux pas? We are here to help you out just before the start of the festive season! Our tips will ensure that you sound professional, culturally sensitive, polite, and warm.

It’s the most wonderful time of the year, but… when is it?

As you surely know, the dates for Christmas and New Year’s Day do not match in all countries and cultures. When working with people from different backgrounds it is therefore a sign of respect to localise your holiday greetings and be mindful of the dates of their public holidays. Some Eastern Orthodox Christians, for example, follow the older Julian calendar for their winter festivities and their Christmas and New Year’s Day (according to the modern Gregorian calendar) fall on the 7 January and 14 January, respectively. The Chinese New Year is typically observed between 21 January and 20 February and the next one will fall on 22 January 2023. Several other countries and territories, such as Korea and Iran, also celebrate New Year on dates other than on the Gregorian 1 January. It is thus wise to invest a little time in checking which holidays your business partners observe and when, and to send them personalised holiday greetings. If you are unsure and do not wish to inadvertently offend anyone, you can opt for a more neutral approach, which we will describe below.

Happy… what?

It is very common for Slovenian speakers to express their good wishes on New Year’s by saying Srečno followed by the upcoming year. In just under a month you will hear people routinely say: Srečno 2023! It is also common, however, for Slovenes to simply translate this greeting verbatim into English and say: Happy 2023! Even though most native English speakers will not raise an eyebrow if you choose to express yourself in this way, it is much more common to say Happy New Year! or, if you absolutely wish to include the number, Happy New Year 2023!

This is true both in speaking and in writing, so be sure to keep this in mind when designing your company greeting cards and holiday emails.

Who is coming to town?

In many places around the world, the figure typically associated with Christmas is the white-haired jolly old man dressed in a red coat and furry hat. Santa Claus is a fairly modern figure largely based on Saint Nicholas. Even though the distinctions between many old traditions and the newer ones tend to blur, there are nonetheless still some cultural differences that need to be observed in translation.

Saint Nicholas, Santa Claus, Ded Moroz…

Even though the character of Santa Claus is based on Saint Nicholas, these two represent very distinct figures in some cultures. In Slovenia, Hungary, Czech Republic, Croatia, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, and Ukraine, Saint Nicholas (SLO: Miklavž) is the first good man to arrive in December, bringing small gifts (usually fruit or sweets) to children on 6 December. Santa Claus (SLO: Božiček) arrives at Christmas and has grown in popularity in recent years largely due to globalisation. In some countries, Slovenia included, a third good man arrives on New Year’s Eve and is based on the Slavic mythical figure Ded Moroz (SLO: Dedek mraz), most often translated as Father Frost. He was popularised primarily in socialist Yugoslavia as a secular alternative to Božiček.

Nowadays, both Božiček and Dedek mraz are popular figures in Slovenia and although there exist several differences between the two, they are sometimes used interchangeably in terms of what they represent. In many cases it is thus perfectly fine to localise the figure of Dedek mraz as Santa Claus. In general contexts, this will certainly be less confusing to people who are not acquainted with this figure. Of course, if it is important in your text, keep the distinction in your translation.

Tis the season to… stay neutral?

In recent years and especially in countries with culturally diverse populations, many people advocate for staying a little more neutral when sending out holiday greetings, so as to include everyone. Even though Christmas and the Gregorian New Year are not observed by all cultures, these holidays have become so pervasive in many parts of the world, that they do not necessarily carry their religious connotation and are considered general family and public holidays. Additionally, we must keep in mind that some cultures observe other major holidays in the same time of year. One such example is the Jewish holiday Hanukkah and another is Kwanzaa, observed by some members of the African-American community in the United States.

If you are thus unsure which (if any) of the holidays the recipient of your warm wishes celebrates, it is best to stick to a neutral greeting, such as Happy holidays! and use more general graphical elements associated with the holiday season on your greeting card. Neutral greetings should not be unfamiliar to Slovene native speakers, as it is quite common in Slovenian to say Lepe praznike! at this time of the year.

We hope this festive dive into localisation gave you some useful tips for creating your seasonal greetings this year. If you give your holiday cards a personal touch, you are guaranteed to leave your recipient feeling positive. Isn’t that what the holidays are all about?

Everyone at Alamma wishes you all the happiness and success in the upcoming year!