Christmas can be a difficult time of year. There are so many questions that need to be answered. What presents should you get for your family and friends? Which relatives should you visit when - and for how long? How much should you eat and drink? Well, at least that last question normally has a simple answer: a lot less than you did last year.
Another equally serious problem, for both native and non-native speakers of English, concerns Christmas greetings. When I was growing up in England in the 1970s, life was relatively simple. On the Christmas cards that I sent, I nearly always wrote: "Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year."
This was easy to remember: "Merry" went with "Christmas", and "Happy" went with "New Year". Of course, some people did write "Happy Christmas", and others would use different formulations, such as "Merry Christmas and best wishes for a Happy New Year". But that was about as complicated as things got.
Nowadays, life is more complex. In particular, greater attention is paid to the multicultural nature of societies. This means being more careful - and more politically correct - particularly when greeting people who may belong to faiths other than Christianity. As a result, it is now common simply to write "Season's Greetings" or, particularly in the US, "Happy Holidays".
So, before sending greetings to your business partners, friends and acquaintances, think about what would be an appropriate message. Here is a list of neutral greetings that you can adapt and combine according to your preferences:
- "Season's/Seasonal greetings and best wishes for a Happy New Year."
- "Best wishes for a wonderful holiday and a Happy New Year."
- "With all good wishes for a peaceful holiday and happiness in the year to come."
- "Holiday greetings and best wishes for a peaceful/prosperous New Year."
Some companies also use general messages such as these:
- "We wish you a happy holiday period, how ever you celebrate it with your family and friends."
- "Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, and all other seasonal greetings that are appropriate depending on your religion and nationality."
So, season's greetings from me, and all the best for the New Year. See you in 2012.