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Can one say "Happy New Year" to a non-Jew


Rabbi David Sperling

Tevet 17, 5776
Shalom dear Rabbi, I wanted to ask if it is permissble to say to a goy before december 31th "I wish you a happy new year" or "I wish you a happy new year" or "the next year shall be a good year for you" or (in Romanian) "a multi ani" , meaning "you shall have many more years to come" Is it proper to say that? The people in question might be offended if this is not said. On the other hand, I could say that we as Jews do not celebrate a new year from January 1st but I wish him all the best and many good years, or would that be still too connected to the idea of a year starting on January 1st. I read of the connection of the 1st of January to the Roman ’deity’ "Janus" and I’m not sure if there is not also a connection to saturnalia concerning the dates. And perhaps one may argue that the idea of something new beginning at the new year was connected to the motions of the sun. Still, on the other hand, if it was not for the pagan association with deifying the sun, I do not know if there is something really intrinsically wrong with seeing events in nature and thinking about a new start of things, and in fact also we as Jews may see the moon increasing or decreasing and having contemplations about things such as hope (even though we know that our wellfare only comes from Hashem and is connected to actions), or that we have a moon calender and a we say Chodesh tov. On the other hand we are sure about all those things and the non-jews may still have pagen associations. If one would disregard the pagan associations and the historical connection, one might think that theoretically there is nothing wrong with counting time with the aid of the sun and there could be a time unit such as the solar year. I would also wonder if a goy is theoretically allowed to give any importance to december 31th/january 1st as the beginning of new year. The question that I’m interested in most is if it is permissable/advisable to say to a goy "I wish you a good next year" before december 31th. or should the subject of december 31/january 1st best be disregarded and not mentioned ? Thank you
Shalom, Thank you for your question. The issue of sending greetings to a non-Jew on their religious holidays is mentioned in the Shulchan Aruch (Yoreh Deah, 148,9), where he writes that "it is forbidden to go into an idol worshipper's house on his festival day to great him with a "Shalom", but outside his house it is permitted. But one should [none the less] not give an over-enthusiastic greeting". The commentators there (see the Shach) discuss whether this law is limited to using the word "Shalom", or all greetings. The ruling is that one may give greetings which do not include the word "Shalom" as it is one of the names of G-d, but rather use wording such as "Good Day", "Long Life!", "Good luck in everything" etc. (see Zedah La'Derech, Machon Zomet, p. 197). Your question has another aspect to it, which is whether the 1st of January is even considered as a religious holiday in the non-Jewish world (as you pointed out). None the less, it is certainly not our New Year. Therefore, whilst it appears that according to the letter of the law one could greet a non-Jew with the words "Happy New Year", as an act of politeness, it would be probably be better to use some other greeting, such as "Best Wishes", or "Have a good holiday". The greeting you mentioned "you shall have many more years to come" seems to have no religious connotations, and as such seems like a fine greeting to wish people. Blessings.
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