Imagine a foreign executive traveling to the U.S. and trying to schedule a meeting for the last Thursday in November or a business dinner at the Rainbow Room on New Years Eve. Forget about it. Well, the same rules apply abroad. For all those businesspeople thinking about conducting business in China on Jan. 28, 1999, when Chinese New Year begins (and when visitors to the country should remember ear plugs) or in Brazil on Feb. 13 when "Carnaval" revelers start primping and partying, forget about it. Likewise, dont consider scheduling negotiations in a Moslem country in January when the Islamic holy days of Ramadan will be in full swing. When governments change, sometimes holidays change, too. Following Hong Kongs reversion to China, the former colony adopted Chinas holiday schedule, although many British customs such as Boxing Day are still observed. Before South Africas 1994 elections, Dec. 16 marked a battle between Zulus and authorities, but now its the Day of the Covenant, a type of thanksgiving holiday. Business travelers to Mexico will find reverberations of that countrys colorful Da de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) in the form of candy shaped like skeletons sold at most shops. Despite its name, the holiday (Nov. 1-2) is not ghoulish or somber, but a way to remember the dead and celebrate life. A majority of Mexicans partake in a special meal, "Bread of the Dead," that promises to bring good luck to whoever chews on the plastic skeleton hidden in the loaf. England launches its winter holiday season with Guy Fawkes Night on Nov. 5. Revelers light bonfires, ignite fireworks, and burn effigies representing Guy Fawkes -- a 17th-century extremist who attempted to destroy James I and Parliament. Brits argue over what this holiday commemorates: Fawkes execution or his idea to wipe out government. Christmas and the few days surrounding it shut down offices in Europe and the Americas. Austrians and Italians celebrate Dec. 26 as St. Stephens Day to commemorate the first Christian martyr. Businesspeople in England, Australia, Canada, and Germany also take off Dec. 26, which in those countries is known as Boxing Day. In Japan just about everyone picks the new year as a time to travel. Locals warn Dec. 29 through Jan. 6 can prove impossible to book a hotel reservation, buy a train ticket, or schedule a business meeting. Perhaps the best days to talk about business in Osaka are Jan. 9-11 when the Toka Ebisu Festival of Imamiya occurs. Businesspeople pray for professional success, and women parade through the streets in colorful kimonos, hoping to please Ebisu, the deity of business and good fortune. For more information on upcoming holidays, check www.getcustoms.com. Also helpful: Dun & Bradstreets Guide to Doing Business Around the World (1997, Prentice-Hall Trade).
Major holidays abroad Nov. 1-2 Day of the Dead, Mexico. Nov. 2 All Souls Day, Brazil, Mexico. Nov. 3 Culture Day, Japan. Nov. 7 Revolution Day, Russia. Nov. 11 Armistice Day/Remembrance Day, France, UK, Canada. Nov. 14 Childrens Day, India. Nov. 15 Shichi-Go-San (Childrens Shrine Visiting Day), Japan. Nov. 15 Proclamation of the Republic, Brazil. Nov. 20 Anniversary of the 1910 Revolution, Mexico. Nov. 23 Labor Thanksgiving Day, Japan. Dec. 12 Constitution Day, Russia. Dec. 16 Day of the Covenant, South Africa. Dec. 20 Ramadan begins, Moslem countries. Dec. 23 Emperors Birthday, Japan. Dec. 26 Boxing Day, UK, Hong Kong, Canada, Australia, Germany. Dec. 26 Day of Goodwill, South Africa. Dec. 26 St. Stephens Day, Austria, Italy. Jan. 2-3 Bank Holiday, Japan. Jan. 7 Orthodox Christmas, Russia. Jan. 15 Coming of Age Day, Japan. Jan. 19 Eid ul-Fitr (festival at Ramadans end), Moslem countries. Jan. 26 Republic Day, India. Jan. 28 Lunar Chinese New Year, China/Hong Kong. Feb. 3 Setsubun (signifies winters end), Japan. Feb. 5 Constitution Day, Mexico. Feb. 11 National Foundation Day, Japan. Feb. 13-16 Carnaval, Brazil.