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Today is my first day back at the office after a two-week vacation, and so there's a lot of handshakes and well-wishing ('happy new year', 'best wishes') going on.

Which raised a fun discussion between me and my co-workers: Some of them completely forget or generally just stop wishing people well on January 2nd, which some considered cold/unfestive, others say they will just keep doing this for weeks after New Year's Day, which in turn was labeled annoying.

Most of them suggested there might be an (informal) rule about the day you should stop wishing people well, so:

What does etiquette say about how long after New Year's Day it's still appropriate to wish people well in the Netherlands?

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    On a second thought, we might also turn this one into a 'global' question, like mentioned here for example... but then every answer should include some geographic/cultural context. If any people actually prefer that, feel free to let me know either here or in Interpersonal Skills Chat. – Tinkeringbell Jan 6 at 13:59
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This answer is based upon the etiquette I've been taught and always heard since childhood. Its rule have been followed for decades by people I know/met, and I've seen it used in Western Europe countries (Belgium, France, Germany1). The Netherlands being so close to those countries, it might apply here too I believe2.

So: sending greetings/Christmas cards was first introduced by Sir Henry Cole. At that time, it was common thing that a letter would take up to a month to reach its recipient. So, nothing rude in being wished a Happy New Year on January 28th for instance. As far as I know, this custom has been kept: when you meet people for the first time since January 1st, and until January 31st, you can wish them a Happy new Year. After that, it seems really outdated, and a bit weird, as people would think you had forgotten about them. This can apply to foreigners too.

At the workplace, I've seen the same rule apply, with a small adjustment, because of "crossing holidays", people coming back to work on different days: after a week, no more Happy new Year, it's annoying and useless. Unless you're a big company, and you meet people once in a while in another office, where same standard one-month-rule applies.

Note: I've always been taught that, as a child, you are the one that should show "more" respect to elderly people (in the sense of "doing it first"). I've done that too at the workplace. Don't wait for your director to send his card/email/wishes, be proactive. And it'll lift the burden of answering too :)

I'm no more a child, but I'm still doing that. Write first when possible. Even with employees (almost mandatory here, because I include a gift card/box, so it has to be a couple of days before the day/vacation). Still, it's not out of the etiquette or weird.


1. when in England, we would do it the same way as in our countries (many different nationalities working in London), but I realize now that native British do it until December 25th and usually not later, it never crossed my mind maybe because they adapted their greetings to us, foreigners. 2. citation from Dutch people to confirm this would be great here.

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    That's either a generously long or ridiculously impossible window for British New Year's greetings, depending on whether it's December 25th of the new year or the old year. ;) Being British, I'm inclined to believe it's the latter - "the correct time to wish me greetings is never". – Hashim Jan 7 at 1:26
  • before the new year of course :) and yes it's a very short span of time, we were rather stunned when we discovered that. But, as youngsters and foreigners, we couldn't care less at the time. Don't know if, decades later, it's still the same. But Brits being rather conservative when it comes to tradition... – OldPadawan Jan 7 at 6:21
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    1. As a native born Brit, I don't know where you get the idea that we don't say "Happy New Year" after 25th December! I would certainly do so a) at a New Year's Eve party b) the first time I met someone in the new year provided it was early in the new year. (I am not sure how early, but end of January feels late.) – Martin Bonner supports Monica Jan 7 at 17:40
  • 2. What does sending greeting cards have to do with greeting people in person? 3. Henry Cole sent the first greeting card in 1843. Roland Hill introduced the universal postal system in 1840 (with a fixed rate). Now, the postal system got a lot better by the end of the Victorian era (delivery times measured in hours), but I don't believe a typical upper end to the delivery time of a month. – Martin Bonner supports Monica Jan 7 at 17:47
  • @Martin: I added this because of the historical background. When I searched for some backup (my culture/education doesn't mean it's right for others :)), I found that story. And it explained why the month span for greetings was linked to postal mail service of the 19th century and its lenght. Thought it could be useful... – OldPadawan Jan 7 at 18:07
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There's no fixed standard for it; it depends on the people and their own preference. This website (in Dutch) identifies 3 different moments.

The lower bound seems to be January 6th (the celebration of Driekoningen), the middle seems to be January 15th (two weeks) and the upper bound seems to be January 31st (because doing it in February is not done).

So I guess you can take your pick.

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When I was a child I was forced to write greeting cards to my old relatives to wish them a happy New Year. I really disliked the thing all in all so I would postpone for as long as I could. My parents would say I have to send them before the 31st of January because otherwise it'd be rude and look like I had forgotten about them in the wishing well process.

I hate the process of wishing people all the best for a special occasion like the New Year (why wait for a special day to wish people the best?) so what I've been doing for years is to only wish it if the person I'm talking to says it first. What I've observed throughout the years is that they would almost systematically greet me with those wishes if the conversation takes place within the first two weeks of the year and I never got those wishes after January, even from loved ones I hadn't seen since the prior year.

Please note that I come from an atheist country of Western Europe so New Year seems kinda like a big deal there, whereas I wouldn't get those wishes past the first week of the year back when I was living in very religious countries of Central Europe (where they would instead focus on sacred holidays). And even then, those would come from closed ones, I never got that conversation with cashiers or my landlord.

So yeah, for (atheist?) Western Europe it's almost mandatory within the first two weeks, it's nice but less important until the end of the month, and then it just gets weird/annoying.

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