Have yourself a very inclusive Christmas…! (and how do you say oud en nieuw in English?)
It seems that Christmas traditions are changing. Many official bodies in the USA and the UK now prefer a more linguistically inclusive approach to what is increasingly becoming known as the ‘Holiday Season’.
Christmas cards are being replaced by holiday cards. Increasingly, you’ll hear ‘Happy Holidays’ or ‘Season’s Greetings’ rather than ‘Merry Christmas’ in an attempt to make all sections of society feel included (for example those who are not religious or who are non-Christians). The reaction of some has been to decry the undermining of a Christian tradition, but others respond that Christmas always has been an all-embracing mish-mash of many traditions (including pre-Christian festivals such as Yuletide).
When it comes to New Year, things are a little more straightforward. A simple ‘Happy New Year’ will usually be appropriate, although you could also substitute another adjective for ‘happy’ – such as ‘prosperous’ (voorspoedig) or ‘successful’ (particularly in a business context). Not all adjectives work, however. One greeting we received to translate wished its recipients a veelzijdig nieuwjaar. Wishing someone a ‘Multi-faceted New Year’ has a strange ring to it.
The day after Christmas Day has an unusual name in English. December 26th is known as ‘Boxing Day’ (and if you mistakenly refer to it as ‘Second Christmas Day’ you are likely to be met with bemusement). The name ‘Boxing Day’ comes from the tradition of the Christmas Box – a gift or tip for tradesmen or domestic staff given by their masters. Nowadays gifts are exchanged on December 25th but the name has remained in place.
Old and new?
And what about the celebrations known in Dutch as oud en nieuw (December 31st and January 1st)? Well, in English these days are known respectively as ‘New Year’s Eve’ and ‘New Year’s Day’. There is no direct equivalent for the Dutch expression prettige jaarwisseling but you can simply wish someone a good New Year. As the clock strikes midnight on New Year’s Eve, it is customary to wish all those present a ‘Happy New Year’ and sing the ‘Auld Lang Syne’ (the words to which were authored in Scots English by poet Robert Burns).