Holiday Greetings and Traditions from the Venga Global Family
When your team is from all over the world, as ours is at Venga, there are as many holiday greetings as there are team members, and just as many ways to celebrate the holidays. We’ve gathered our Venga team together to share how they might wish each other holiday greetings or celebrate with family and friends.
Nadia – Czech Republic
In the Czech Republic, we have several holiday greetings, and they each convey different wishes for the season. Most people wish each other a merry Christmas by saying “Šťastné a Veselé!”, a short and sweet phrase that literally translates as “Happy & Merry!” It’s appropriate in virtually any social setting. If you want a slightly longer version of the same wish, you might instead say, “Veselé Vánoce a šťastný nový rok!”, which means “Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!”
For a more elaborate wish, choose “Šťastné a spokojené svátky vánoční, hodně štěstí, zdraví a božího požehnání v novém roce!” It covers all your bases: you are wishing someone happy and content Christmas holidays, lots of good luck, health and God’s blessings in the New Year. Although the Czech Republic is a predominantly atheist country, during the holiday season, it’s appropriate to wish someone God’s blessings.
We also use “Jak na Nový rok, tak po celý rok” around the new year, between the 31st of December and the 1st of January. It’s less of a greeting and more of a saying, and it means “As it is on the New Year, so will it be throughout the year.” It’s the Czech twist to the concept of New Year’s resolutions: we believe that our character and mindset on the first day of a new year will set the tone for the year ahead.
Finally, we have a couple of sayings specific to certain days in the Christmas season. On St. Nicholas’s Day, December 6, you might say, “Na svatého Mikuláše je už zima celá naše,” which means “On St. Nicholas’ day, the winter is already ours.” It’s also more of a saying than a greeting, and it’s a way to imply that winter is already in full swing.
On St. Lucy’s Day, on the 13th of December, it’s common to say, “Svatá Lucie noci upije, ale dne nepřidá.” It means “St. Lucy will take a sip of the night, but won’t make the day any longer.” St. Lucy’s Day used to be a feast day, and the longest night of the year, so the saying is a way to recognize the darkness that comes with winter. In the Czech Republic, the winter days are short and it gets dark around 4 pm. So the idea is that St. Lucy takes a sip of the longest night of winter, but she won’t be bringing longer days just yet.
Alex – Brazil
In Brazilian Portuguese, we use “Feliz Natal” (which means “Happy Christmas”), “Feliz Ano Novo” (“Happy New Year”), and we have an expression that can be used to include both Christmas and New Year’s, which is “Boas Festas.” It’s the equivalent to the English phrase “Happy holidays,” but it literally means “Good Parties,” as in “I hope you have a good parties season.” We often refer to the holidays as the “end-of-year parties,” in the sense that we spend the season celebrating.
Nadine – Germany
In Germany, we usually greet each other with “Fröhliche Weihnachten und einen guten Rutsch ins neue Jahr!” This corresponds to something like “Merry Christmas (Fröhliche Weihnachten) and a Happy New Year!” Interestingly, “und einen guten Rutsch ins neue Jahr” actually wishes you a “good transition” or literally “slide” into the new year, so you would say it before the new year. Another way to wish someone just a Merry Christmas is to say “Frohe Weihnachten.”
Once you’ve slid into the new year, you can say “Frohes neues Jahr” (Happy New Year), “Gesundes neues Jahr” (Healthy New Year), or several other options, depending on whatever you want to wish the other person.
Kay – Taiwan
Our December holiday is the Winter Solstice, which falls in mid-December. When it comes to the Winter Solstice most people in Taiwan would immediately think of Tangyuan. They are a traditional food made from rice flour and water, and shaped into round balls. Tangyuan are a must-have during Winter Solstice because the round shape symbolizes family reunion, and most families get together on the Winter Solstice, because it is the very last holiday before Chinese New Year. There is an old Taiwanese saying that goes, “冬至圓仔呷落加一歲” which means “You will become a year older after eating the meat balls during Winter Solstice.” It’s a way to wish someone a good continuance into the new year.
Ella – Poland
Christmas wishes in Poland are usually religious or focus on the family celebrations. We usually wish everyone either “Happy holidays”(Wesołych Świąt) or “Healthy and peaceful Christmas” (Zdrowych i spokojnych Świąt Bożego Narodzenia) and we emphasize they should the spent with family – it’s actually very unusual to spend Christmas outside your family circle (e.g. with friends).
We often combine Christmas and New Year’s wishes together, wishing each other a Happy New Year (Szczęśliwego Nowego Roku) full of successes, a raucous New Year’s Eve party or many bubbles in the champagne we are going to drink at midnight.
Something we do often is to reference the Christmas wafer (the opłatek) in our wishes. It is a beautiful tradition celebrated just before Christmas Eve dinner, the most important meal and family gathering during Christmas time. Each family member takes a small piece of a Christmas wafer and approaches another person in the room. We wish each other merry Christmas, and we try to personalize the wishes as much as we can, and then we each break a little piece of each other’s Christmas wafer. The wafer symbolizes the unity that we share with people we love, and this is why many Polish holiday cards have its image:
Larisa – Russia
In Russia we have pretty standard greetings, saying “Happy New Year” and “Wishing you a Merry Christmas.” Since the New Year happens first and is celebrated more, we put it first in our wishes. Also, we have “New Year” tree rather than “Christmas” tree. New Year means a big celebration with family and friends with lots of home cooked dishes. After midnight, people go outside (even when it’s -30 ) to the main city or town square to wish everyone a happy new year. Some rural areas still celebrate the Old New Year (from the Gregorian calendar), on the eve of January 13th and these celebrations have a pretty standard greeting like “Happy Old New Year.”
Katherine – South Africa
I was brought up by a Mozambican father and a Mauritian Mother in an English-speaking home in South Africa, so I want to make sure I really represent my rainbow nation. We have 11 official languages, and nearly as many holiday traditions.
English- and Afrikaans-speaking South Africans celebrate Christmas in a very similar way. On either Christmas Day or Christmas Eve (often both) families will get together and have a big family meal. Many families opt for a braai (a barbeque) rather than the traditional English roast. Along with spending time around the tree opening loads of presents, we also spend time swimming or relaxing in the sun. English-speaking families wish each other “Merry Christmas,” and Father Christmas visits rather than Santa. Afrikaans-speaking families say “Geseënde Kersfees,” and they’re visited by “Kersvader.” Strictly speaking, “Geseënde” actually means “blessed”, so you really wish someone a “Blessed Christmas.”
Families who speak African languages tend to celebrate a little differently. Christmas is not really a tradition or cultural event, so most families use the time off to spend time with each other and have an elaborate meal. However, the exchanging of gifts is not a common practice. For this reason, none of the African cultures have a name/or concept of “Santa” and very few have a word for Christmas. People who speak Zulu and Ndebele use the word “Ukhisimusi” for Christmas, while Xhosa have no local word and simply call it “Christmas.” Some cultures are very tied into the Christian element of Christmas, such as the Sepedi (Northern Sotho) who refer to Christmas as “Matswalo a morena Jesu,” the birth of Jesus Christ.
Eli – Spain
In Spain, families gather on New Year’s Eve (Noche Vieja) to have dinner together. Exactly 12 seconds before midnight (people eat twelve grapes, one for each bell strike (campanadas), to have a lucky and prosperous year. Right after eating the grapes, family members kiss each other on the cheek and say “Feliz Año Nuevo” (Happy New Year). After that, everyone toasts to celebrate the new year!
Kåre – Sweden
These are Lussekatter (Saffron Cats)
Lucia celebrations in Sweden on December 13 (St. Lucy’s Day) are a popular holiday tradition, but they would not be successful without the yellow saffron cats. Saffron cats (Lussekatter) are sweet buns made of butter, sugar, milk, and saffron – what’s not to like?
But why cats, and why are they associated with Lucia celebrations?
Lucia is the patron saint of the blind and died around 300 AD in Syracuse, Sicily. Legend has it that she consecrated her virginity to God, refused to marry a pagan, and gave her dowry to the poor. Her angry betrothed perhaps misunderstood that she had found another bridegroom and in revenge turned her over to the authorities as a Christian. To try and get her to renounce her Christian beliefs they threatened to drag her to a brothel but she was so filled with the Holy Spirit they couldn’t move her despite all efforts. They decided to burn her on the spot but the flames did not consume her. She bravely continued to profess her belief in God and was finally killed when a sword was driven into her throat.
Her feast day falls on December 13, and celebrates a story that she brought food to Christians hiding in the catacombs, and put a wreath of candles on her head so she could carry as much food as possible.
The lussekatter all started in Germany in the 17th century. According to tradition, the devil punished children by turning into a cat and scratching them, while Jesus, as a little child, gave buns to nice children. To keep the devil away, the lussebullar (Lucia buns) baked in Sweden were stained with the yellow saffron from the late 1800s. In the west of Sweden these buns were also called “devil cats.” Some claim that even the “lusse” in the lusse cat comes from Lucifer, commonly the name of the devil. And on the other hand, there are old stories where Lucia was associated with Lucifer because of the echoes between the names (both of which come from the genitive form “lucis” of the Latin “lux,” or “light”).
The saffron cats can be baked in a variety of shapes. The most common form, the so-called lussekat or lussegalt (lusse pig) is formed as an ‘S’ with the ends rolled together separately and usually a raisin placed in the middle of each roll. It is also common to arrange two S’s, either crossed or next to each other, usually called a golden carriage, Christmas carriage, or Christmas cross. There are also larger variants, such as the priest’s hair and seed cake. The most common forms originate from ancient patterns that were common on, for example, jewelry and pictures in northern Europe, and can be traced back to the Bronze Age.
Chris – United Kingdom
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! How many times have you heard this across the English-speaking world? In this case, the phrase actually comes from England.
The first evidence of “Merry Christmas” being used is in 1565 when it appeared in the Hereford Municipal Manuscript, in which the author writes, “And thus I comytt you to God, who send you a Mery Christmas.”
The phrase “Merry Christmas and and a Happy New Year” first seems to have appeared in a 1699 letter from Admiral Francis Hosier to Robert Smith, a shopkeeper in Deptford, London. It was later brought into popular culture by the author Charles Dickens’s “A Christmas Carol” in 1843.
By the late 19th century, the phrase “Happy Christmas” appears to have taken over. It is believed this is because “Merry” has connotations drunkenness (which it seems is why Queen Elizabeth II prefers it).