Cultural Etiquette and International Protocol

I Say Merry Christmas; You say . . .

Image by Christina

. . . Happy Kwanzaa, Happy Hanukkah or Feliz Navidad.

Respect is honoring the position of another.If I say Merry Christmas and you respond with your preferred season’s greeting (e.g., Happy Hanukkah), we are good! It is a wonderful way to share our holiday preference and at the same time honor the season.

It is that time of the year when we are all trying to be politically correct, and it can cause awkward moments. It is simply impossible to know the beliefs of everyone we greet during this special time of the year. It is also unfair to yourself to sidestep your convictions through your holiday greeting.


Your personal holiday cards should also reflect your religious or cultural beliefs. Do not use Happy Holidays as an escape phrase; use it only if it is truly your preferred holiday greeting. (The exception would be a corporate/business “Happy Holidays” card that needs to reflect a wide range of beliefs.)

As the old saying goes, “Do not walk on ice” as a way to avoid offending another with your personal greeting. Instead, be understanding and flexible! Tis the season for sharing and giving. Here are just a few holiday languages from around the world:

  • Africa “Happy Kwanzaa” (Western Africa):
  • Arab: “Eid Mubarak” (representing 22 Arab countries)
  • Brazil: “Boas Festas e Feliz Ano Novo” and “Feliz Natal”
  • Canada: “Merry Christmas” or “Joyeux Noel”
  • China/ Cantonese “Gun Tso Sun Tan’Gung Haw Sun” and “Saint Dan Fai Lok”
  • China/Mandarin: “Kung His Hsin Nien bing Chu Shen Tan”
  • Denmark: “God jul”
  • France: “Joyeux Noel!”
  • Germany: “Froehliche Weihnachten“
  • Greece: “Kala Christouyenna!”
  • Hawaii: “Mele Kalikimaka” and “Hauoli Makahiki Hou”
  • Hungary: “Boldog karácsonyt” or “Kellemes karácsonyi ünnepeket”
  • India: “krisamas kee badhaee” (Hindi)
  • Ireland: ”Nollaig Shona Dhuit”
  • Israel/Hebrew: “Mo’adim Lesimkha. Chena tova”
  • Italy: “Buone Feste Natalizie” or “Buon Natale!”
  • Japan: “Meri Kuri” or “Meri Kurisumasu”
  • Jewish Holiday: “Happy Hanukkah”
  • Latin America: “Feliz Navidad”
  • Native American/Cherokee: “Danistayohihv” and “Aliheli’sdi Itse Udetiyvasadisv”
  • Native American/Navajo: ‘Yáʼátʼééh Késhmish’
  • Portugal: “Feliz Natal” or “Boas Festas”
  • Russia: “Pozdrevlyayu s prazdnikom Rozhdestva is Novim Godom!”
  • Sweden: “God Jul and (Och) Ett Gott Nytt Ar”
  • United Kingdom: “Happy Christmas” or “Merry Christmas”
  • Wales: “Nadolig Llawen”

Your greeting not listed? Simply add in the comment section.

However you say it, it is a “warm-hearted” greeting in any language. This is our annual greeting to our friends and colleagues around the world.

Please share your viewpoint and greeting.

Merry Christmas,
Gloria Petersen and the Global Protocol Team