candlesNovember is almost upon us, and with it comes an amazing array of festivals that are going to affect people in the workplace, either because they themselves are away and celebrating, or because they work with people who won’t be there.

I thought I would try out writing a single, researched, blog post before the start of each month going forwards, rather than lots of individual ones, so your feedback would be really welcome.

Of course, in doing so, I have, predictably, “opened Pandora’s box”: it’s simply not possible to cover every national and religious holiday in a single post. So I’ve focussed on the major World religions and some of the places that we at Global Integration regularly work or do business. If you’re reading this and your November national or religious holiday or festival isn’t mentioned, please do include it in the ‘Comments’ box below, and I’ll be sure to include what’s appropriate in next year’s round up.

So, why the cultural ‘stuff’ on a workplace blog, anyway? These holidays and celebrations can be a source of some practical difficulties when you work on a virtual team, or with an international team:

  • Just because you’re celebrating doesn’t mean others will be – or that they celebrate the same thing on the same day as you do. (Some years ago, I travelled to Greece, only to  find out that it was Easter, two months after Easter had been celebrated at home – not a mistake I shall make again.)  Try to let your work colleagues know in advance that you won’t be in the office, and for how long. Give as much notice as possible so that project planning is easier.
  • If a colleague is likely to be taking time off, ask them how they’ll be celebrating. You may learn something about them, their culture and what they value, which can make your working relationship easier.
  • Before booking a big meeting or event, particularly one which people will travel too, ask whether people have celebrations on those dates. This will also pick up things like birthdays. In our experience, bigger international meetings inevitably mean someone misses something at home.  (Just look at November’s celebrations below, and try and find a date where something isn’t happening or where it’s not someone’s weekend.) Make sure you acknowledge, accommodate, and, if appropriate, celebrate with the person who’s made the sacrifice.  You will almost certainly have to make a point of  asking. Many people will quietly just come to be helpful to their colleagues, or because they feel their career is at stake, or simply just not turn up.

November 2013 holiday celebrations

I’m going to kick off with the Day of the Dead,  which falls on October 31, November 1 and November 2. It’s root lie in Christian All Hallows combined with more Pagan, traditional religions, and is celebrated very differently World wide. For example  Dia de los Muertos is celebrated across three days in in Mexico and as Dia de Finado in Brazil. In these places, there’s a spiritual element, remembering the souls of  those no longer with us, and many people won’t go to work. Where  I live, in England, we have a slightly more sobre, solemn attitude towards death as a sad thing, and don’t have a set day to celebrate those we have loved and lost – although perhaps we should! We do, however, party in the form of Hallowe’en, focussing on the scarier elements of ghosts and spirits coming back from the dead, dressing up as witches, wizards and ghosts, but, sadly, not taking a day off!

Jewish people will be celebrating Hannukah from sunset, November 27 to nightfall, December 5, 2013. Other names for the festival include Chanukah, Chanukkah, Chanuka, the Festival of Lights or the Feast of Dedication. The festival incorporates the distinctive nine-candled Menorah, which is lit marking a miracle.

Unlike other religions, the festivals unique to Sikhs simply mark the milestones of the lives of their ten gurus, and their teachings. A festival with ‘Shaheedi’ marks martyrdom, ‘GurGaddi’ marks the becoming a guru, and JotiJot  marks the death of the guru. These important anniversaries are referred to as Gurpurbs, and are usually marked  with readings, kirtans (music recitals) and katha (lectures on Sikhism). Sweets and langar are also sometimes offered to the general public. This month, November 24 marks the death and martyrdom of Guru Tegh Bahadur, the Gurgadi of Guru Gobind Singh, and the ‘guruship’ of Guru Nanak Gurpurab .

Also this month is Bandi Chor, which marks the release of Guru Hargobind, along with 52 long imprisoned rajas. When the Guru reached Amritsar, the people lit up the whole city with thousands of candles, lights and lamps  – Diwali. These two festivals are technically separate, but in practise tend to merge together.

Hindus also celebrate Diwali, for different reasons to the Sikh religion. You can read more about the festival here: Diwali.

Celebrated with no less passion, but with perhaps a little less spirituality, is Australia’s Melbourne Cup Day, which is the richest race of its kind in the World and has been described as ‘The race which stops the nation’. This year it falls on November 5: all of Melbourne, Australia, is formally on holiday (and in other Australian place, s informally).

In the USA, Veterans Day 2013 is celebrated on November 11, 2013. This is an official United States federal holiday  honouring war veterans. Other countries celebrate Armistice Day and Remembrance Day which also mark the end of World War I. (World War I formally ended at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, 1918.). Some will also take holidays, some mark with silences.  (Where I live, in England, there’s a five minute silence. People will stop still and silent in the streets for a minute, and we wear poppies, the money from which goes to help people who have been injured whilst serving. But other than the silence and memorial services, which are held on the Sunday afterwards, Remembrance Sunday, work life continues unaffected.)

Thanksgiving Day also falls in the US on November 28, 2013. We wrote about Thanksgiving earlier this year: http://www.global-integration.com/blog/thanksgiving-2013

Please note: Our own Americas team will be taking time off for Thanksgiving.

And last, but not least, Singles Day (Also known as One’s Day or Guang Gun Jie) is a major popular holiday held in China on November 11, celebrating the single life. It’s a major commercial festival and marked with lots of partying. Don’t book a conference call or meeting for the next day!

If you need help working with or managing your virtual team, or making international/cross cultural working easier, why not call us for a chat and see how we can help?

About the author:

Claire Thompson Claire has a background in PR and communications, and has worked in the UK and abroad for many years. Within Global Integration, she's the frontline for co-ordinating the blogging, social media, posting and general digital magic that team members ask for support with. It keeps her busy - she loves it! Google+ Profile: .

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