Season’s Greetings for Every Culture

Holidays Around The World

As the holiday season begins it is the time to mail out “Season’s Greetings” wishes. Businesses in the United States are becoming “politically correct” and culturally sensitive to the fact that “Merry Christmas” will not do it in the religiously inter-mingled global environment.

Even a Happy New Year wish is a bit tricky, because it is based on the Gregorian (Christian) calendar. While the Gregorian calendar is a de facto international standard and businesses around the world use it (imagine the confusion if each country used a different calendar!), it is important to know that other calendars exist as well and are widely used in non-business environments.

In the Bengali calendar, New Year’s Day is on or around April 15. Like many other holidays based on the position of the sun or the moon (Easter), this one does not have a fixed date. The Bengali calendar might seem like a silly example, until you realize that there are more than 200 million speakers of Bengali – about the number of speakers of French and German combined.

In the Chinese calendar – and there are twice as many speakers of Chinese than there are of English– New Year’s Day (also known as the Lunar New Year or the Spring Festival) falls on the first day of the first lunar month. Add the Buddhist, Jewish, Orthodox, Islamic, Hindu, Julian and other calendars, and you will be able to celebrate New Year’s Day with amazing frequency.

Businesses that work internationally must be aware of these different holidays to remain culturally sensitive.  Even regular working days and weekends cannot be taken for granted. For example, in Saudi Arabia, the legal work week runs from Saturday through Wednesday, whereas in Iran it runs from Saturday through Thursday, and in Egypt and Israel from Sunday through Thursday.

So how do we navigate the complicated global environment and ?gure out which country is open for business when? Is there a simple source – a global calendar – which would tell us who is celebrating what and when, and, more importantly, which countries are closed for business on particular dates? Unfortunately, this is easier said than done, because many holidays – like Easter – depend on astrological events which do not follow the Gregorian calendar schedule we are accustomed to. In addition, we need to distinguish between religious, public, legal, bank, and other holidays, as some holidays do not affect business (Halloween), some affect business to some degree (Columbus Day, banks are closed, but most businesses are open), and some prevent doing business altogether (Thanksgiving).

Here are some links to help you figure out who is open for business when: