The holiday season is an important time in most companies. Employers and employees meet in a friendly atmosphere to celebrate the end of the year. However, there are many other festivals throughout the world that are linked to various customs and traditions, which are also opportunities to share a convivial time with work colleagues.
Expats who join a company abroad are faced with a cultural change that can sometimes be daunting, especially during the holiday season. In fact, depending on the country, traditions and customs, companies don’t always celebrate the same events and celebrations can vary.
Here is a brief overview of the different traditions in the East and West and of the various celebrations in companies around the world.
Christmas, the Epiphany cake and Easter in France and other Western countries
In France, as in most Western countries, Christmas, celebrated on December 24th, is usually the occasion to organise a party with the company’s employees. If Christmas was originally a religious festival, it has, over the years, developed a more secular character where Nativity scenes have been replaced by Christmas trees, baubles and garlands in many companies’ offices and lobbies. The tradition is that Santa offers gifts, and often during the “end of the year” celebration, employees are encouraged to offer each other a small gift commonly called “Secret Santa.” In Romania, Christmas is celebrated either at the company or in a restaurant or bar.
When New Year’s Eve celebrations are over, businesses like to celebrate the New Year with an Epiphany cake. Epiphany is celebrated on January 6th, when the three wise men brought their gifts to Jesus. The religious spirit of this festival has not been preserved, but each cake comes with a crown and the one who finds the bean hidden inside the cake becomes the king or the queen for the day in their company.
It is not unheard of for a friendly manager to also give a small basket of chocolate eggs to their employees during the Easter period.
Ashura, Hijri New Year and the Mawlid festival in Morocco and some Muslim countries
In Morocco, three festivals are usually celebrated in companies. Hijri corresponds to the Arab New Year and Mawlid celebrates the birth of the Prophet. Colleagues like to gather around large buffets where dried fruits and oriental cakes are displayed, and singers are often invited to liven up the evening. At the Ashura festival, which falls in late September, depending on the year, small gifts are offered to the employees’ children.
Tet in Vietnam
In Vietnam, the most important holiday of the year is Tet, which takes place during the last week of January. The festival begins on the first night of the new moon and marks the end of the lunar year and the beginning of a new one. In companies, employees gather for Tet Eve to celebrate the transition to the New Year.
St. Nicholas in Northern Europe
If Christmas is commonly celebrated in most European countries, St. Nicholas has a prominent place in Northern countries. St. Nicholas traditionally brought gifts while Christmas was a purely religious festival celebrating the birth of Jesus. In Poland, Germany, Belgium, Austria, Russia, and many other countries, St. Nicholas continues to bring gifts to company employees on December 6th.
Fat Thursday in Poland
In Poland, in addition to St. Nicholas, another festival is also celebrated in companies, “Fat Thursday”, when employees feast on donuts and other goodies.
The Defender of the Fatherland festival in Russia
In Russia, both the New Year and the Defender of the Fatherland are celebrated. An outing with colleagues, a concert or a special event are followed by dinner in a restaurant as part of the festivities.
Thanksgiving in the United States, Canada and the Caribbean
Thanksgiving is one of the most important days for American and Canadian people. Businesses are closed to allow employees to celebrate Thanksgiving with family and friends. Although it has a religious tradition, it has been considered a secular festival in recent years.
To sum up, all companies, wherever they are offer great opportunities to bring employees together to celebrate traditional festivals in a relaxed and friendly atmosphere.
Have a very happy festive season!