Several times in the last few weeks I’ve been asked to provide tips for the holiday season and I’ve responded pretty much in the same way each time: “You’ve already missed Diwali,” or “too late for Yom Kippur.” I decided it was time I replaced my flippant British irony meaning, “Are you kidding? In the global world we have a festival every week?” with something a little more meaningful and helpful to others.
By the way, what the heck is “Thanksgiving” anyway? And what you are Americans saying thank you for? Wikipedia provides the answer and I see that its really what we Brits would call a “harvest festival”—something which would most typically involve going to church in the early autumn (that’s “fall” your side of the Atlantic) and doesn’t involve huge meals or family celebrations in the same way the Americans do it. Oh and I note that “Thanksgiving” is also celebrated by the Dutch, the Grenadans and the Canadians! However, if you’re targeting the holiday season now, and you’re a little behind the curve so to speak. No worries: speaking globally, there’ll be another festival next week.
Major Holidays Around The World
January: New year in Japan. Hot on the heels of western thanksgiving and Christmas is the new year, which is now celebrated around the world but most particularly in Japan where the bells ring 108 times to symbolize the 108 sins in Buddhist belief and then it’s onto the new year meal “Osechi.” The Japanese also like to send each other postcards at new year to keep in touch and they give money to children.
February: New year arrives in China with lanterns. The Chinese or lunar new year starts in 2011 on the 3rd of February celebrating the arrival of the year of the rabbit, running for two weeks until the Lantern Festival on the 15th day. It is probably the most important festival for search marketers in the region since, like western Christmas, families reunite and exchange gifts. It is celebrated in mainland China but also in Hong Kong, Indonesia, Macau, Malaysia, Singapore, Taiwan and Vietnam, as well as by expatriate Chinese populations elsewhere in the world.
March: St. Patrick’s Day and Nowru-z. Nowru-z is originally an ancient Persian festival celebrating the new year on the first day of spring (what a great idea, by the way—can we change ours to this?). It is the most important holiday in Iran with preparations beginning in the last month of the year when a complete spring cleaning of the house is in order. After spring has arrived gifts are exchanged between family members gathered round the table. Families, friends and neighbors visit each other.
Though Iran is difficult to target with search marketing, the festival or ones similar to it are celebrated widely around the world. Nowru-z is an official holiday in Afghanistan, Albania, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Kazahkstan, Kyrgystan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.
Meanwhile St. Pats day on the 17th of March seems to get bigger every year despite the fact that it is only an official holiday in Ireland, Newfoundland and Labrador and Montserrat. St. Patrick is the patron saint of Ireland who brought Christianity along with him from present day Brittany in France (Gaul) — though he was actually of Roman-British descent. St. Patrick’s Day is well celebrated in the US and Montreal in Canada has the longest running St. Patrick’s Day parade.
April: Easter, Passover and Vesa-kha. Easter is clearly a huge and commercially significant annual festival, but Passover is also significant, celebrated over at least seven days. It is one of three Jewish festivals that involves making pilgrimages to the Temple in Jerusalem. During the festival days, there are holiday meals and special prayer services.
On the Indian subcontinent Buddhists celebrate Vesa-kha which is a sort-of Buddhist birthday (it also commemorates his enlightenment and death) which is also celebrated in Singapore, Vietnam, Thailand, Cambodia, Malaysia, Myanmar and Indonesia. Don’t try and target Vesa-kha with food which involves meat, though—Vesa-kha is a day when followers are expected to refrain from killing of any kind, so all food is vegetarian. Alcohol is also not allowed.
May: Cinco de Mayo, Victory Day. May is more about labor days (widely celebrated around the globe) and victory days. The Mexicans have their Cinco de Mayo which remembers Mexico’s rather unexpected victory over the French in the Battle of Puebla on May 5th 1862. Rather like St. Patrick’s day representing everything Irish, this day really celebrates all that’s best about Mexico, which is partly why it’s popular with Hispanics now living in the US with the festivities including food, music and dancing.
Victory Day in Russia celebrates the surrender of Nazi Germany to the Soviet Union in the Second World War. Originally adopted by the Soviets, it is now recognized in most of the former Soviet republics including parts of the former East Germany.
Search marketers should note that there are a large number of independence days (around 126 of these), and victory or armistice days around the world which can mean a drop in search activity (if it’s primarily about taking a day off work) or a huge celebration with search trends looking for more food, drink and gifts than traditional items.
June: Quebec celebrates its “Frenchness;” anti-fascists their freedom. The founder of the national holiday of Quebec celebrated on the 24th of June, Ludger Duvernay, has just recently attended St. Patrick’s Day celebrations—so it’s fair to say it has a similar provenance. It is based on the feast day of Saint John the Baptist which is also celebrated in Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. So while eastern Canada parties, so does Scandinavia.
In Croatia, June 22nd is the day when the memories of an uprising of Croatian partisans against the fascist German and Italian occupying forces are put on record. There are many similar days like this around the world.
July: Revolution in France and St. Cyrille in the Slavic World. You can’t be French or anything connected with the French without understanding “Bastille Day” from the French revolution of 14th July, 1790. The Bastille was a great Parisian prison which was stormed by revolutionaries at the beginning of France’s journey to becoming a republic. Festivities, fireworks and military parades commemorate the day in France and there are many festivities in other French-speaking parts of the world as well as 50 US cities.
Meanwhile, St. Cyrille, who was involved in developing alphabets for Slavic languages including the Cyrillic which formed modern day Russian (to transcribe the Bible), is commemorated in the Czech Republic—where the Cyrillic alphabet was replaced by the Latin alphabet from the 15th century onwards.
August: Ramadan and independence day in India and Pakistan. You can’t mention major global festivals without including the start of the 30-days of Ramadan—though unlike many other major festivals, this one involves fasting rather than eating (at least during the day). There is food after dark and the festival ends with Eid ul-Fitr when there is a celebration—food is given to the poor and everyone dresses in their very best clothes. However, Ramadan does include decorations such as lanterns to mark the event. It is a major event in the Arabic-speaking and Muslim world and one which search marketers would do well to note in their web analytics analysis.
Both India and Pakistan also celebrate their independence from Britain in August, though these events also created the separate nations of India and Pakistan with their various disputes since. However, there are parties and celebrations around India and Pakistan.
September: Hindu Festival of Ganesha. Ganesha Chaturthi is the Hindu festival celebrating Ganesha’s birthday. He, by the way, is the god of wisdom, prosperity and good fortune, so he fits in well with search marketing. This festival is a major event lasting 10 days and is celebrated all over India. It involves a lot of artistic clay models and colorful decoration in homes.
October: Austria goes neutral and the Bahamas is discovered. With my Austrian connections, I could not exclude the Austrian declaration of neutrality commemoration which took place on the 26th of October, 1955 and is commemorated each year. The declaration was all part of a deal to persuade the Soviet Union to remove its occupying troops—but nothing prevents an excuse for a good party!
Nor can you blame the Bahamanians for partying on October 12th to celebrate the fact that Christopher Columbus “found” the Bahamas and took it from isolation to ultimately one of the world’s most attractive holiday destinations (although he probably didn’t foresee that either). But it does make the point that sometimes the target for search marketers is people who would like tovisit during a period of historical significance or to join in with one of the festivals. Travellers who are visiting families will not start their journeys in the countries where the principal festivities will be taking place.
November: Diwali and Eid al-Adha. The festival of lights or Diwali, is an significant Hindu festival and probably their most important festival of the year. It involves celebrations by families and festivities at home and is an official holiday in India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Mauritius, Guyana, Trinidad and Tobago, Suriname, Malaysia, Singapore and Fiji.
Eid al-Adha is the Muslim festival of sacrifice which is an important religious holiday for Muslims worldwide. It starts after the famous Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca. It involves prayers, self-preparation and putting on your best clothes.
December: Boxing day and Santa Lucia day. The British and the Canadians do have Boxing Day in common. This is not a day where any “boxing” takes place, but is the 26th December just after Christmas and a public holiday in most of Canada and the UK and brings us back full circle to Christmas. Boxing day is the day the sales start and, typically, in the UK at any rate, the day when most clicks are paid on search engines as the shopping season goes completely mad.
Santa Lucia Day is one of those typical events that really require you to understand local markets. It is generally celebrated in Scandinavia and especially in Sweden on December 13th. Santa Lucia arrives with lights and sweets and there are processions of candles. But there are also lots of parties!
Constitution Day everywhere. Obviously the creation of a constitution is a major event in the development of a modern nation. There are at least 46 constitution days around the world of which a number of public holidays and celebrations.
So global search marketers, you will have to start studying major religious festivals to understand their impact on your peaks and troughs, and they may explain why your seasonal patterns globally don’t match what your customary patterns. I recommend you make a note of the major festivals which will take place during your campaign year in the markets you are targeting.