Greetings of 'the Festive Season'


So many things to catch up on. I'll start with an easy one, a linguistic point.

I mentioned earlier that I dislike expressing generalized greetings for "the holidays" and prefer to mention each specific festival as it arises. Happy Hanukkah! Merry Christmas! Happy Hari Raya! Happy Buddha's Birthday! And on through the busy calendar. Based on my time in Malaysia, where members of the varied ethnic groups would all recognize the others' holidays, I don't worry about ethnic-profiling the people I'm greeting. It's Happy Chinese New Year to one and all at the appropriate time; Happy Fourth of July to all comers on that day, including (especially!) to Brits.

But now I learn that on this point, as on so many others, the superficially-American-seeming society of Australia has a different approach that has prompted me to re-examine my assumptions. To review a few I've mentioned before: Australia's mandatory-voting laws put America's widespread voter-suppression policies in a sharper and even less favorable light; its term limits for its counterpart to the Supreme Court avoid many of the distortions of our judicial gerontocracy; its combination of very high minimum wage, and a no-tipping culture, is part of an egalitarian, "thick middle class" feel to society that seems a quaint memory in America. And so on through a long list, notably including what they call "Medicare." It's what our Medicare would be, if it had no age limits.

And now the linguistic point. I wrote to some associates in Melbourne yesterday and got this robo-reply:
Thank you for your email.  I am currently away on annual leave for the festive season and will be returning on Monday 7 January 2013.

I shall respond to your email upon my return.
I shall consider adopting this practice myself. Retrospective wishes on the Festive Season just past, and early greetings on the one to come at the end of this year. 


(Apparently I'm not the first one to notice this locution. Image from here.)
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James Fallows is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and has written for the magazine since the late 1970s. He has reported extensively from outside the United States and once worked as President Carter's chief speechwriter. His latest book is China Airborne. More

James Fallows is based in Washington as a national correspondent for The Atlantic. He has worked for the magazine for nearly 30 years and in that time has also lived in Seattle, Berkeley, Austin, Tokyo, Kuala Lumpur, Shanghai, and Beijing. He was raised in Redlands, California, received his undergraduate degree in American history and literature from Harvard, and received a graduate degree in economics from Oxford as a Rhodes scholar. In addition to working for The Atlantic, he has spent two years as chief White House speechwriter for Jimmy Carter, two years as the editor of US News & World Report, and six months as a program designer at Microsoft. He is an instrument-rated private pilot. He is also now the chair in U.S. media at the U.S. Studies Centre at the University of Sydney, in Australia.

Fallows has been a finalist for the National Magazine Award five times and has won once; he has also won the American Book Award for nonfiction and a N.Y. Emmy award for the documentary series Doing Business in China. He was the founding chairman of the New America Foundation. His recent books Blind Into Baghdad (2006) and Postcards From Tomorrow Square (2009) are based on his writings for The Atlantic. His latest book is China Airborne. He is married to Deborah Fallows, author of the recent book Dreaming in Chinese. They have two married sons.

Fallows welcomes and frequently quotes from reader mail sent via the "Email" button below. Unless you specify otherwise, we consider any incoming mail available for possible quotation -- but not with the sender's real name unless you explicitly state that it may be used. If you are wondering why Fallows does not use a "Comments" field below his posts, please see previous explanations here and here.
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