Living in France, you quickly notice come January 1st how serious an institution “Bonne année” is to the French.
In the U.S., we wish our loved ones–and even some strangers who cross our paths–a “Happy New Year” between about 3PM on December 31st and midnight on January 1st. But it’s a short-lived blessing, a narrow window to comply with the ritual. In France, you essentially have the whole month of January to say your Bonne années, but you must be sure to say it to everyone and anyone who ever meant anything to you.
I once had a client, whom I had only met in person once, send me a horribly apologetic e-mail around January 30th seeking my forgiveness for failing to wish me and my family a Happy New Year sooner. She was mortified at the omission.
There are, of course, a number of variations of the Bonne année (Bonne année, Bonne année et bonne santé… Plein de bonnes choses…) should you choose to go down that route. One French friend told me you could determine someone’s social class by the particular greeting he or she chose. I’m not sure about that; I’ll let you look into that.
Whichever greeting you choose, whichever language and whenever you read this, I wish you and your family a very HAPPY NEW YEAR!