The Christmas and New Year period is an important time of year at most companies and businesses. It gives employers and employees the chance to get together and spend some friendly, enjoyable time with each other celebrating the end of the year. However, there are also many other types of festivals and celebrations found throughout the countries of the world that also provide opportunities for colleagues to spend enjoyable time together.
Expatriates joining companies abroad can find themselves faced with cultural differences that can sometimes come as a surprise, particularly where Christmas and New Year celebrations are concerned. In fact, and depending on the particular country, customs and traditions involved, businesses may not even celebrate the same events, and the way the organised celebrations are held can vary considerably.Taking a quick look at the different traditions that exist from east to west gives an idea of the diversity of celebrations held in companies around the world.
Christmas, "galette des rois" (kings cake) and Easter in France and other western countries
In France, as in most western countries, Christmas Eve, celebrated on the 24th of December, is generally a time when company parties are organised for employees. Though Christmas is a religious celebration in origin, it has become more secular over the years, with the nativity scene giving way to the shiny ball and tinsel decorated fir tree found in many offices and company reception areas. Tradition has it that Father Christmas is the one who brings the presents, and in companies and workplaces, employees often organise a Secret Santa event, where each person is invited to buy a small present for someone else. In Romania, Christmas is celebrated either at the company offices or at a restaurant or bar.
Once New Year's Eve is passed, companies and businesses traditionally like to celebrate the new year with king cake. This special event takes place on Epiphany, on the 6th of January, which is when the three kings brought their gifts to Jesus. The religious spirit of this celebration has not been retained. Instead, each king cake is decorated with a crown which is given to the person who finds the lucky charm hidden inside the cake, thus making them company king or queen for the day.
And finally, particularly considerate managers may sometimes place small baskets of chocolate eggs on employees' desks at Easter.
Ashura, Hijri and Mawlid in Morocco and certain Muslim countries
In Morocco, there are three special occasions normally celebrated in companies and workplaces. Hijri is the Arabic New Year, and Mawlid celebrates the birth of the prophet. On these occasions, employees enjoy getting together at large buffets made up of dried fruits and Middle-Eastern style cakes, and there are often singers at these events to provide entertainment. At Ashura, which takes place towards the end of September, with the exact date varying from year to year, small gifts are given to employees' children.
Têt in Vietnam
In Vietnam, the most important celebration of the year is Têt, which takes place in the last week of January. The festival begins on the first night of the new moon and thus marks the end of the lunar year and the beginning of the new one. At companies and workplaces, employees get together on the evening before Tết for a dignified celebration of the arrival of the new year.
Saint Nicholas in Northern Europe
Though Christmas is commonly celebrated in most European countries, Saint Nicholas has a particularly important place in the cultures of the northern lands. It used to be the case that Saint Nicholas brought presents, and Christmas was a purely religious festival celebrating the advent of Jesus. This is why in Poland, Germany, Belgium, Austria, Russia and many other countries, Saint Nicholas still brings presents to employees at companies and workplaces on the 6th of December.
Fat Thursday in Poland
In Poland, in addition to Saint Nicholas, there is an unusual day that may sometimes be celebrated in companies and businesses: "Fat Thursday". Employees mark the day by merrily indulging in doughnuts and various kinds of strudels and pastries.
The Defender of the Fatherland celebration in Russia
The two main annual celebrations in Russia are New Year and Defender of the Fatherland Day. The festivities involve going for a night out with colleagues, attending a concert or doing some other kind of special activity, all followed by dinner at a restaurant.
Thanksgiving in the United States, Canada and the Caribbean
Thanksgiving is one of the most important days in the calendar for Americans and Canadians. Companies and businesses close to allow employees to celebrate this special occasion together with their friends and families. Though essentially a religious celebration in origin, it has been regarded as a secular celebration for a number of years now.
In summary, all companies and workplaces, no matter where they are located, offer special occasions on which their teams can enjoy traditional celebrations together.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!
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