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Swedish Greetings in the New Year Posted by on Jan 19, 2015 in Swedish Language, Vocabulary

January is coming to a close and most everyone is back to work after having taken time off for the holidays here in Sweden. That won’t stop you from hearing people greeting each other using the term god fortsättning. It literally means good continuation as in a continuation of the holidays. It’s a wonderful phrase that really comes in handy during the months of December and January every year.

Swedish has a lot of phrases that get thrown around during the holiday season. There’s god jul (Merry Christmas) and gott nytt år (Happy New Year), for example. But those are generally used for very specific days. Then there is god helg, which is somewhat equivalent to happy holidays. And there’s even gott slut, which is basically a way to wish someone a happy end of the year. Although, I have to admit that I hear gott slut so rarely that I considered not even including it in this post.

When should you use all these terms? Gott slut is a way to wish someone a happy end of the year and should be used, you guessed it, at the end of the year. Usually in the days leading up to New Years. God helg is a catchall that gets used a lot in the fall and winter as people celebrate all kinds of things. But the more common ways of greeting someone during this time of year is with God jul and gott nytt år, which are, of course, used at Christmas and New Years. You can combine the two and say god jul och gott nytt år in the days and weeks leading up to Christmas and New Year, especially if you don’t think you’ll see that person until after the holidays. It’s like wishing them a happy everything, but in advance. And then there’s god fortsättning.

Stockholm in the late afternoon. Photo Credit: Marcus Cederström

Stockholm in the late afternoon. Photo Credit: Marcus Cederström

There is no hard and fast rule for when you should say god fortsättning, but know that it is quite common. In fact, depending on who you ask, you might get different explanations as to how and when and why it should be used. Generally, you’ll hear people say it in the days between Christmas and New Years. There it’s being used as if to say, enjoy the rest of your holidays! And then in the days (and sometimes weeks) after New Years, you’ll hear it again. There it’s being used as if to say, enjoy the year to come! Now there might be some people who disagree with what I just wrote, because there is also a line of though that says that god fortsättning should only be used up until the epiphany—January 6—because that’s the official end of Christmas.

To confuse things even more, Institutet för språk och folkminnen (The Institute for Language and Folklore) says that you can use the term at any time of the year. There reasoning is that whoever says it, determines the meaning. God fortsättning could be used to wish someone a happy holidays or a happy rest of their life. It really does it all. But they admit that it is most common in the days after Christmas and the beginning of January.

As you’re learning Swedish, it’s best to play it safe—use god fortsättning starting December 25 and keep it going in January until you start to notice that the Christmas decorations are coming down around town.

And since there are still plenty of lights up, I’ll follow my own advice… god fortsättning!

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About the Author: Marcus Cederström

Marcus Cederström has been writing for the Transparent Swedish Blog since 2009. He has a Bachelor's Degree in Scandinavian Studies from the University of Oregon, a Master's Degree in Scandinavian Studies from the University of Wisconsin–Madison, and a PhD in Scandinavian Studies and Folklore from the University of Wisconsin–Madison. He has taught Swedish for several years and still spells things wrong. So, if you see something, say something.


Comments:

  1. Lindsay Brown:

    Is it essential to use someone’s first name in Swedish when replying to xmas greetings?

    E.g If I send greetings to sven and write ‘sven, I wish you etc’
    Is it necessary for him to say ‘Lindsay – Thank you and seasons best greetings/ – Or is it OK if Sven omits my name and simply says ‘Thank you and season’s best..’

    I am asking because in English it would be impersonal not to use the first name when replying – Both our emails were sent in Swedish – so maybe Swedes are more impersonal?
    Advise please