When there are differences among holidays in several countries…

Here you are another cartoon of the Greek author Arkàs. But this time translation is almost impossible because some holidays, although they are similar, don’t have the same name in all languages.

Let’s start and try to translate, at least literally, in order to better understand the hurdles we face…

“Good morning.”

February tells Monday (Arkàs has created a whole series of cartoons with months and days as its protagonists):

“You’re still here? You were supposed to be at work!”

Please note that while in English days are neuter, in Greek they are feminine nouns. For this reason Arkàs draws them as girls.

Now let’s move on…

Monday replies: “But shouldn’t I clean myself up?”.

And February responds: “You don’t need to!… Clean Monday is in March!”.

Are you messed up? It’s okay, don’t worry. The holiday indicating the beginning of Lent comes into play here, and in Greek it’s Καθαρή Δευτέρα (/katharì deftèra/, literally “clean Monday”). This holiday has some affinity with the English Ash Wednesday, the Italian Mercoledì delle Ceneri and the Spanish Miércoles de Ceniza. However, Καθαρή Δευτέρα is typical of the Orthodox world only, and it’s a real celebration. In fact, while in the Protestant and the entire Catholic world the first day of Lent is a day of penitence, in Greece it’s a holiday that goes beyond the religious meaning: kites are launched, and a lunch rich in culinary specialities, especially shellfish and crustaceans, is tasted.

Therefore, taking into account the literal translation, in the cartoon Monday has to be cleaned up and tidy before going to work. But there isn’t an effective translation mainly because in the other languages there isn’t that meaning of clean, so the punchline doesn’t stand up. In addition to this, the dates of Lent, and consequently of Easter, often do not match since they are calculated in a different way (although they usually match every four years). So, also for this difference in time, the cartoon is out of place.

To wrap up, when a translator bumps into a difficulty like that, s/he has no choice but to dot the translation with notes and references, or s/he may overturn the text, deleting every reference to the holiday. In this way, s/he may give free rain to imagination and come up with the dialogue from scratch. I’m leaving that translation choice to you.

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