Greetings for Holidays and Celebrations

by Norine Dresser,author of Multicultural Manners : New Rules of Etiquette for a Changing Society, (John Wiley & Sons), 1996
Ms. Dresser can be reached by email at norined@earthlink.net.

Note: Where no standardized greetings exist, individuals might ask others if and how they would like to be greeted on specific occasions.

AFRICAN AMERICAN

Kwanzaa
GREETING: Happy Kwanzaa

ARMENIAN

(Most Armenians belong to the Armenian Gregorian or Orthodox Church; smaller numbers belong to Catholic or Protestant congregations.)

New Year
GREETING: Happy New Year

Christmas
GREETING: Merry Christmas
In church on Christmas, Armenians greet each other by saying "Christ was born and revealed."
(Traditional Armenians only give gifts to children.)

BAHA'I

Naw Ruz
GREETING: Happy New Year

Festival of Ridvan (the "d" with a dot below, the correct transliteration, is pronounced like a "z," thus "Riz-wan")
GREETING: Happy Ridvan (Riz-wan)

It is inappropriate to offer greetings on the following occasions:

  • Ascension of Baha'u'llah
  • Martyrdom of the Bab
  • Birthday of Baha'u'llah

BUDDHIST (Theravada)

Visakaha Day. This is a combined celebration of Buddha's birth, death, and reaching nirvana.
GREETING: Ordinarily, Buddhists do not offer greetings, but if they or outsiders wish, they may say the following:
Happy Buddha's birthday CAMBODIAN

New Year
GREETING: Happy New Year
To confer blessings on this holiday, Cambodians throw water on each other and on outsiders they like and respect.

CHINESE

New Year
GREETING: Happy New Year
Gung Hay Fat Choy (Cantonese pronunciation)
Gungshi Shin Nien (Mandarin pronunciation)

There are no customary greetings for the following holidays:

  • Lantern Festival
  • Respect for Ancestors Day (Ch'ing-ming)
  • Dragon Boat Festival
  • Ghost Festival
  • Mid-Autumn Moon Festival

CHRISTIAN

Easter
GREETING: Happy Easter

Christmas
GREETING: Merry Christmas

Because Jehovah's Witnesses do not celebrate birthdays, it is offensive to say "Merry Christmas" to a Jehovah's Witness, as well as "Happy Birthday." Both are disrespectful greetings.
There are no special greetings for the following occasions:

  • Candlemas
  • Shrove Monday, Shrove Tuesday, Ash Wednesday
  • Palm Sunday, Good Friday, Pentecost, Advent

EASTERN ORTHODOX CHRISTIAN

Christmas
GREETING: Merry Christmas

New Year
GREETING: Happy New Year

Easter, also known as Pascha
GREETING: Happy Easter

There are no special greetings for Palm Sunday, Good Friday, and Pentecost.

HINDU

The greeting is the same for each of these occasions:

  • Makara Samkranti/Pongal
  • Maha Shivaratri
  • Holi
  • Ramanavami
  • Janmashtami
  • Durga Puja
  • Diwali

GREETING: God bless you with prosperity and happiness;
I wish you happiness and prosperity.

HISPANIC/LATINO

Christmas
GREETING: Merry Christmas (Feliz Navidad)

IRANIAN

Now Rouz
GREETING: Happy New Year

ISLAMIC

Eid al-Fitr
Eid al-Adha
GREETING: Eid Mubarak; Happy Eid; Congratulations; May every year bring more good things to you.

Ramadan
GREETING: Ramadan Mubarak; Congratulations on the arrival of Ramadan; Wishing you the blessings of Ramadan. (Mubarak means "blessings.")

Muslims fast from sunup to sundown during the month of Ramadan. If you find yourself in a situation with someone who is observing Ramadan where you need to eat, drink, or smoke, ask them if this would be offensive to them.

It is inappropriate to offer greetings on the following occasions:

  • Laylat al-Qadr
  • Muharram
  • Maulid an Nabi

JAIN

Mahavir Jayanti
This occurs at the end of one week of fasting and celebrates the birth of Mahavir. Believers ask for pardon for past transgressions. It is inappropriate to offer greetings on this occasion.

JAPANESE

On New Year's Day, "Happy New Year" is appropriate.

On birthdays, weddings, and other happy occasions, Japanese say "Omedeto," which means "Congratulations."

There are no special greetings for the following occasions:

  • Greenery Day
  • Children's Day
  • Respect for the Aged Day

JEWISH

Purim
GREETING: Happy Purim; Happy holiday

Passover
GREETING: Have a happy holiday; Happy holiday

Shavuoth
GREETING: Happy holiday; Have a happy festival

Rosh Hashanah
GREETING: L'shana Tova, Happy New Year; Have a good year;
May you be written in (or inscribed) for a year of good health and happiness.

Yom Kippur
GREETING: May you be sealed in the book of life for a good year; Good yuntef

Sukkoth
GREETING: Happy holiday; Happy festival

Shmini Atzeret
GREETING: Have a happy festival; Have a happy holiday

Hanukkah
GREETING: Happy Hanukkah

The phrase "good yuntef " is an appropriate greeting for all holidays.

KOREAN

New Year
GREETING: Happy New Year; New Year's Blessings

Chusok
Because it is mainly an agricultural and full moon harvest festival in Korea, Chusok has no special greeting.

MEXICAN

Cinco de Mayo
GREETING: Happy Cinco de Mayo

Day of the Dead
GREETING: Since this is a memorial day, there is no appropriate greeting.

Las Posadas
GREETING: Merry Christmas (Feliz Navidad)

Christmas
GREETING: Merry Christmas (Feliz Navidad)

SIKH

Guru Gobind Singh Ji's birthday

New Year (Baisakhi)

Guru Nanak Ji's Birthday

GREETING: The greeting is the same for each of these occasions:

  • Congratulations on this holy day.
  • May you be blessed by the Guru.
  • Greetings on this holy day.

TIBETAN

New Year (Losar)
GREETING: Happy New Year; Happy Losar

To each other they say, "lo sar bey tashi delek." This means, "I wish you prosperity and good will." Using the English translation as a greeting would be appropriate, too.

VIETNAMESE

New Year (Tet Nguyen Dan)
GREETING: Happy New Year; Blessings on the New Year

EATING TABOOS

FOOD: Catholics, on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, may abstain from eating meat.

Hindus don't eat beef.

Hindus, Muslims, Mormons, and some Protestant sects do not drink alcoholic beverages.

Jews who observe Passover are forbidden to eat any baked goods or cereal products that could ferment (bread or dough).

Jews and Muslims who observe the dietary codes don't eat pork or fish without scales or fins. In addition, Jews will not eat foods that are not kosher or not prepared under kosher conditions.

Navajos who adhere strictly to old traditions do not eat fish. However, more modern Navajos do.

Seventh Day Adventists who strictly follow the official Articles of Incorporation, dated 1901 and amended in 1953 that urge strict vegetarianism, refrain from eating meat.

UTENSILS:

When eating with people who use their hands instead of utensils, do not use the left hand for touching food and drink. It is considered unclean. Use only the right hand.

When using chopsticks while dining with Japanese people, do not rest your chopsticks upright in the rice. To do so brings bad luck because upright chopsticks are only used during funeral rituals.

UNEXPECTED CUSTOMS:

Koreans generally do not drink tea with their meals. With meals they serve hot or cold water or soft drinks. They drink tea before or after meals. The tea is usually made from barley, not from tea leaves.

In Japan and Hong Kong, slurping pays tribute to the chef. Lip smacking as done in Hong Kong is a complimentary sign, as is belching when done in Saudi Arabia and parts of the Philippines. When living in the United States, people from these parts of the world may continue these practices.