A holiday is a day designated as having special significance for which individuals, a government, or a religious group have deemed that observation is warranted. It is generally an official (more common) or unofficial observance of religious, national, or cultural significance, often accompanied by celebrations or festivities.
The word "holiday" comes from the Old English word hāligdæg. The word originally referred only to special religious days. In modern use, it means any special day of rest or relaxation, as opposed to normal days off work or school. The word derived from the notion of "Holy Day", and gradually evolved to its current form.
The usage of the word "holiday" varies in different parts of the English-speaking world.
Australia, Canada, UK
In Australia, Canada, and the UK, all usage of the word holiday means time away from normal employment or education. The meaning is further subdivided into two major sub-categories:
Public holiday, a day decreed by government as a day when the bulk of the population is not normally expected to be at work, such as Australia Day, Anzac Day, Bank Holiday or Christmas Day.
A non-working trip or stay away from one's normal home. This is similar to what is described elsewhere as a vacation, but that word is rarely used in Australia or the UK. Canadians variously use either the term "vacation" or the word "holiday."
Days referred to as holidays in other places but which do not involve formally decreed time away from work especially for that day, such as Valentine's Day and Mother's Day, are not described as holidays in Australia or the UK.
In the U.S.A. holiday may refer to a day set aside by a nation or culture (in some cases, multiple nations and cultures) for commemoration, celebration, or other observance. Schools and businesses often close for holidays.
Types of holiday (observance)
Main article: Lists of holidays
See also Category: Religious holidays
Many holidays are linked to faiths and religions (see etymology 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 ul-Fitr (immediately after Ramadan) and Eid al-Adha (at the end of the Hajj). 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) and Shavuot (Weeks, called Pentecost in Greek); and the Fall Feasts of Rosh Hashanah (Head of the Year), Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement), Sukkot (Tabernacles), and Shemini Atzeret (Eighth Day of Assembly).
Northern Hemisphere winter holidays
Main article: Christmas and holiday season
Winter in the Northern Hemisphere features many holidays that involve festivals and feasts. The Christmas and holiday season surrounds the winter solstice and Christmas, and is celebrated by many religions and cultures. Usually, this period begins near the start of November and ends with New Year's Day. Holiday season is, somewhat, a commercial term that applies, in the US, to the period that begins with Thanksgiving and ends with New Year's Eve. Some Christian countries consider the end of the festive season to be after the feast of Epiphany.
Main article: list of holidays by country
Sovereign nations and territories observe holidays based on events of significance to their history. For example, Australians celebrate Australia Day.
See also Category: Secular holidays Several secular holidays are observed, such as Earth Day or Labour Day, 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.
See also Category: Unofficial observances These are holidays that are not traditionally marked on calendars. These holidays are celebrated by various groups and individuals. Some promote a cause, others recognize historical events not officially recognized, and others are "funny" holidays celebrated with humorous intent. For example, Monkey Day celebrated on December 14, and International Talk Like a Pirate Day observed on September 19.
Jehovah's Witnesses do not celebrate certain holidays, such as Christmas, Halloween, and Easter, because they believe these holidays are pagan. They also 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.