What is a holiday?

What is a holiday? What do holidays mean for you? A change of scene or routine? An escape from work or study? A chance to spend more time with family and friends or retreat to be alone?

What is a holiday?

Your answer may not be the same as mine. We are all different.
What is common to all is the human need to balance work with regular recreation and rest.

What does the word 'holiday' mean?

The origin of the English word ‘holiday’ is the Old English ‘halig daeg’ (holy day). ‘Holy’ means ‘set apart’. So a day of holiday is a day that is different from other days.

A ‘holy day’ is a day set apart from ordinary days.

On a 'holy day' the usual demands of work are suspended to free up time for celebrating an aspect of faith. For example, for Christians, the 'holy day' of Christmas is to celebrate the birth of Jesus.

In the Hebrew Scriptures the 4th of the '10 commandments' is to remember to keep a regular sabbath day. This is an ancient commandment but its principle is still relevant. 
"Remember the sabbath day, and keep it holy. For six days you shall labour and do all your work.  
But the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God; you shall not do any work—you, your son or your daughter, your male or female slave, your livestock, or the alien resident in your towns. 
For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but rested the seventh day; therefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day and consecrated it." Exodus 20: 8 - 11

We need regular pauses to catch our breath and take stock.

God gives the Sabbath principle to stop work at least one day in seven. It is the principle that matters, not the particular day of the week.

In the Jewish religion, the sabbath is the 24 hours from sundown on Friday until sunset on Saturday, that is observed as the 7th day Sabbath. Muslims keep a day of prayer on Fridays. For Christians, the 1st day of the week - Sunday, is the 'holy day' because Jesus rose from the dead on the 1st day of the week. 

Ignoring the principle of refraining from work at least 1 day in 7 is a quick way to burn-out.

A regular ‘holy day’ is a time set apart for rest, refreshment and renewal of relationships. As Jesus pointed out, this is for our benefit:
"The sabbath was made for humankind, and not humankind for the sabbath;..." Mark 2: 27

I love Toki Miyashina’s version of the 23rd Psalm ('The Lord is my Shepherd').

Here it is in ‘Psalm 23 for Busy People’

"The Lord is my Pace Setter, I shall not rush. 
He makes me stop and rest for quiet intervals. 
He provides me with images of stillness, 
which restore my serenity. 
He leads me in ways of efficiency, 
through calmness of mind; and his guidance is peace. 
Even though I have a great many things 
to accomplish each day, 
I will not fret, for his presence is here. 
His timelessness, his all-importance, will keep me in balance. 
He prepares refreshment and renewal in the midst of my activity, 
by anointing my head with his oils of tranquility. 
My cup of joyous energy overflows. 
Surely harmony and effectiveness shall be the fruit of my hours, 
For I shall walk in the pace of my Lord, 
and dwell in his house for ever."
(Lion Book of Famous Prayers, Lion, 1983, pp. 114 - 115) 

If you are reading this while on holiday, enjoy your holiday! If this is a busy time for you, it can help to plan regular recreation points in whatever way helps you best to relax.

I believe that ultimately we find true rest and refreshment in relationship with God, through Jesus Christ. Holidays or ‘holy days’ give time for that relationship to develop.

Over to you. What is a holiday for you?

Image Credit: Pixabay


  1. It wasn't until this year that I realised that the meaning of a holiday for me was time away with my husband. I've just been away and there were good moments but it simply wasn't a holiday without him, it was a break away. It did also make me realise that I've been filling up time and keeping busy to cope, time on "holiday" when I had nothing that I had to do was very difficult and painful at times. I am going to have to redefine the meaning of yet another word in my vocabulary and another thing that used to be a source of pleasure will become a struggle and challenge to reinvent and give new meaning to.

    1. I've just read you 'Beadnell Bay' post on your blog. Yes, I can understand why you could not think of that break away as a holiday. I'm wondering if you found value in having some time with nothing to do. The value I am thinking of is that of allowing difficult and painful emotions and memories to surface - the sort of things we can so easily bury by keeping busy, but which we have to face, hard though that may be.

  2. I didn't find value in time with nothing to do. I have a lot of painful memories and emotions anyway, so intense that until recently they were causing frequent panic attacks, flashbacks and broken sleep- they "surface" all the time! Keeping busy doesn't stop me thinking or feeling but it keeps it in check so it doesn't become all absorbing and stop me functioning. What was valuable was time with other people for talks/ walks/ trips/ meals. I was lucky in that I only had one full day on my own (I got up too late to go on the organised trip for that day) and on that day there was a group meal out in the evening which was a real life saver.

    1. So it was the time with other people and the sharing of conversation, food, outings and walks that helped an made your 'holiday' of some value, even if it was not the holiday you would have most enjoyed.


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