The word holidays is derived from ‘holy days’ and were originally religiously oriented celebrations. Easter, Christmas, Yom Kippur, Passover and many others originated in the history of the Christian or Jewish religions. In the United States, Thanksgiving originally had religious undertones, but many consider it a welcome harvest festival. In the United States, bank holidays include Christmas, Thanksgiving and sometimes Easter Monday, but banks and state and federal government workers also get New Year’s Day, President’s Day, Martin Luther King Day, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Columbus Day, and Veteran’s Day in most jurisdictions.
In some countries there are many holidays known as saint’s days in which the patron saint of a village or church or ward is recognized and feted with the same type of celebrations as those in the U.S. would find appropriate on Independence Day, such as a parade, fireworks, dancing and food.
There are traditional activities that are associated with many of these holidays, such as Memorial Day when graves are decorated to honor the dead and Independence Day which usually has at least one fireworks display. Because children are not usually attending school on the holiday, many activities are focused on children or planned around an agenda that includes the entire family.
Gradually, the term holidays has come to mean almost the same thing as the word ‘vacation’. Children have summer holidays each year; the Christmas holidays last anywhere from one day to a full month. The Thanksgiving holiday is celebrated with family, and sometimes the break in the spring celebrated by many college students is called spring holiday, but this usage is less common than “spring break” or “spring vacation”.
Yet another usage of the term holidays is that with a meaning of ‘vacation.’ This is the act of traveling to another location for from time spent away from the usual humdrum of life. In the United State one would speak of taking a vacation at Walt Disney World, while the European would be more likely to speak of taking holidays on the Mediterranean or on the southern coast of Italy. In either case, holiday travel is often to a new and exotic location, someplace where you can just enjoy your freedom from cares, worries and boredom of day to day life.
The location of the holidays will vary depending upon the time of year. For example, those bored and lethargic during the winter doldrums may choose to take their holidays in the tropical sunshine where they can loll on the beach and get a great tan. Swimming, snorkeling and scuba diving in the dead of winter has a great appeal to anyone shoveling out after the last snowstorm. Other vacationers choose the Christmas holidays as a time to indulge in a skiing vacation in the Rockies or the Poconos.