The holidays have ended, but there is a greeting still lingering in the social fabric that is about to reach its expiration date: Happy New Year. The expiration date is more a “best by” date, but nonetheless, the date is January 7, 2012; so get it in while you can because tomorrow you’re just gonna sound like a crazy person. While we’re on it, I’m going to provide for you a helpful guide to holiday related greetings so you can avoid a social faux pas in the future sounding like a grizzled homeless man in six coats and a tin foil hat in July.
General Rule: For all holidays worth their own greeting, you have to abide by the “week of” rule. The of the holiday is when salutations about the holiday are acceptable. Happy Halloween, Have a great fourth, Happy Labor Day, Happy Memorial Day…weekend. Okay, frankly I don’t think any of these are greetings-worthy, but if you must come up with something regarding Columbus Day or Earth Day, just stick with “week of” and you’ll avoid the awkward glances and stares. Now, on to the heart of the calendar that brims with so many holidays that it is its own season like Deer and Duck have their own fated seasons.
Nov. 20-Nov. 26
Starting at the beginning, Happy Thanksgiving is the obvious beginning to the holidays. As a general rule I think you should refrain from using this greeting until the week of Thanksgiving. Any earlier and people are going to raise an eyebrow. Most people have just nailed down their plans for the day at the one week mark. They just are figuring out whose house they will be driving to, and whether Karen is bringing her new boyfriend flavor of the month. After Thanksgiving you can’t wish anyone a Happy Thanksgiving, but you have a two-day grace period to ask, “How was your Thanksgiving? Do anything special?” After this period it is time to move on to our next holiday slogan.
Nov. 27-Dec. 17
It is time to switch to Happy Holidays at this point. You are in the thick of events. You are surrounded by festivities from Hanukkah to New Year’s and everything in between, so it is time to get a little more generic. This is not a dig on Christmas, or a salvo in the phantom war on the holiday, it is simply an inclusive term that takes in to account the feeling of the season. Don’t get your panties up in a bunch and cling to Merry Christmas like someone is fisting the Virgin Mary, it’s just too soon to drop Merry Christmas while most people are so crazed and annoyed, they don’t want to be reminded that they are desperately running out of shopping days as the clock winds down.
Dec. 18-Dec. 25
Okay, release the hounds of hell. Christmas is coming like a steaming locomotive and it is time to drop Merry Christmas to both greet and say goodbye to people. Saint Nick has burnt up your credit rating, is driving you to drink, and all the plans for the day in question have been carved in to stone and replayed in your mind a hundred times. The anticipation is there and those f-ing Lexus commercials and Macy’s Christmas muzak has buried itself so deeply in your psyche that therapists nationwide know that bed and breakfast at Wit’s End has no vacancies. So, just let ‘er fly with reckless abandon.
Dec. 26-Dec. 28
This is a tough spot. Happy New Year is acceptable from the moment Christmas Day ends, but this is a time when asking about how Christmas was is acceptable, while Happy Holidays is still socially acceptable as well. This is a time where full conversations can stem from just trying to cover all of your salutation bases. Seriously, just asking about Christmas and plans for New Year’s can get you jammed up for ten minutes just trying to hit every bullet point. It can be tough to choose, and the onus is on the speaker, but choose carefully if you’re in a hurry, because you might get sidetracked in to discussing every present, the Christmas Day dinner, and where everyone is ringing in the new year. Ugh.
Dec. 29-Jan. 7
Okay, the meat of the thing. This is a time where Happy New Year is the only way to go. Obviously, leading up to New Year’s Eve and Day is Happy New Year, but after New year’s Day is a tough one. I have heard guesses at acceptable time frames of using the phrase from one week to all of January. Saying Happy New Year after NYD is basically wishing someone luck. Good Luck is a bit on the nose, so we use Happy New Year in its place, but you are basically wishing someone a good year when you say it. It is loaded, but wishing someone luck in a new year is weird once the year is no longer new.
I go with the one week rule because by this point. This means you’ve got one more day to get it out of your system. Everyone is back to their regular work schedule. No more vacations, school breaks are mostly over, and people are settling back in to the grind. The rosy cheer has drained from their face. They are burnt out on turkey and cookies and nogs of all kinds. The family has left town and left a mess of both emotional and physical proportions that keep gyms, dry cleaners, and therapists in steady work. Even the homeless know that the free ride is over; the well of generosity has dried up. At this point, forget the holidays and just pat each other on the back, because you’ve survived yet another whirlwind year you will spend the next ten months trying to forget, work off, and pay off…then we do it again…so an early/late Happy holidays to ya.