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A holiday is a day agreed for most people to be off work, usually in recognition of a religious celebration or a national commemoration. This is in contast to taking an extended break which we cover here under the term vacationing.



Holiday is a contraction of holy and day, holidays originally represented special religious days. This word has evolved in general usage to mean any extra special day of rest (as opposed to regular days of rest such as the weekend). Countrywide, Holidays stands for when everybody plans for holidays or a break. Under many belief systems, days of rest are necessary for ritual or spiritual rejuvenation.

Holy days originated in the Bible as 7 annual Holy Days the Jews, or children of Israel, were commanded to keep as instructed by Moses (who received it from the Lord or Yahweh (the Eternal One)). Outlined in Leviticus 23 are the 7 annual Holy Days that were to be kept. The word holi-day has replaced "Holy-Day" in today's English.

As an observance[]

In all of the English-speaking world including North America, a holiday can refer to a day set aside by a nation or culture (in some cases, multiple nations and cultures) typically for celebration but sometimes for some other kind of special culture-wide (or national) observance or activity. A holiday can also be a special day on which school and/or offices are closed, such as Labor Day. By extension, (observance)-holiday, e.g. Labor Day holiday, refers to the rest period around the official observance.

Types of holiday (observance)[]

Main article: Lists of holidays

Consecutive holidays[]

Consecutive holidays are a string of holidays taken together without working days in between. They tend to be considered a good chance to take short trips. In late 1990s, the Japanese government passed a law that increased the likelihood of consecutive holidays by moving holidays from fixed days to a relative position in a month, such as the second Monday.

Religious holidays[]

Further information: Category:Religious holidays

Most holidays are linked to faiths and religions (see etymolgy above). Christian holidays are defined as part of the liturgical year. The Catholic patronal feast day or 'name day' are celebrated in each place's patron saint's day, according to the Calendar of saints. In Islam, the largest holidays are Eid and Ramadan. Hindus, Jains and Sikhs observe several holidays, one of the largest being Diwali (Festival of Light). Japanese holidays contain references to several different faiths and beliefs. Celtic, Norse, and Neopagan holidays follow the order of the Wheel of the Year. Some are closely linked to Swedish festivities. The Bahá'í Faith observes holidays as defined by the Bahá'í calendar. Jews have two holiday seasons: the Spring Feasts of Pesach (Passover), Chag Ha-Matzot (Festival of Unleavened Bread), and Shavuot (Weeks, called Pentacost in Greek); and the Fall Feasts of Yom Teruah (Day of Blessing, also called Rosh HaShannah), Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement), and Sukkot (Tabernacles).

Northern Hemisphere winter holidays[]

Main article: Christmas and holiday season

The winter months in the Northern Hemisphere see the observance of many holidays considered a season, often accompanied by festivals and feasts. The winter holiday season is known as a period of time surrounding Winter Solstice that was formed in order to embrace all cultural and religious celebration rather than only Christian celebrations. Usually, this period begins near the start of November and ends with New Year's Day on January 1. The holiday season is usually commercially referred to with a broad interpretation, avoiding the reference of specific holidays like Hanukkah or Christmas. Traditional "holiday season" festivities are usually associated with winter, including snowflakes and wintry songs. In some Christian countries, the end of the festive season is considered to be after the feast of Epiphany, although this is only within the Christian creed. Winter holiday greetings are traditionally a part of the winter holiday season.

National holidays[]

Main article: list of holidays by country

Many sovereign nations and territories observe holidays based on events of significance to their history. For example, Australians celebrate Australia Day.

Secular holidays[]

Several secular holidays are observed, both internationally, and across multi-country regions, often in conjunction with organizations such as the United Nations. Many other days are marked to celebrate events or people, but are not strictly holidays as time off work is rarely given.

Unofficial holidays[]

See also:

These are holidays that are not traditionally marked on calendars. These holidays are celebrated by various groups and individuals. Some are designed to promote a cause, others recognize historical events not recognized officially, and others are "funny" holidays, generally intended as humorous distractions and excuses to share laughs among friends.


Jehovah's Witnesses do not celebrate any holidays due to their belief that holidays are pagan in origin, such as Christmas, Halloween, Easter, etc[citation needed]. They reject national holidays as well because they believe that by celebrating these holidays they are giving honor to man's governments and not God's Kingdom[citation needed].

See also[]


  • Susan E. Richardson (July 2001). Holidays & Holy Days: Origins, Customs, and Insights on Celebrations Through the Year, Vine Books.
  • Lucille Recht Penner and Ib Ohlsson (September 1993). Celebration: The Story of American Holidays, MacMillan Publishing Company.
  • Barbara Klebanow and Sara Fischer (2005). American Holidays: Exploring Traditions, Customs, and Backgrounds, Pro Lingua Associates.

External links[]

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