What’s in a Word? Vacation or Holiday?
When I’ve talked with English speakers from other countries, I’ve often had a laugh when I realize we are sometimes not speaking the same language. Take for example the word biscuit, which are not served with dinner in the UK, but are what we would call cookies. (Thank you, The Great British Baking Show!)
Many of these word choices don’t make a big difference, but sometimes there is a distinction worth making. English speakers around the world often speak of going on holiday instead of going on vacation. I think it is worth considering going on holiday in the future.
The root of the word vacation is “to vacate” or to make empty. This means going on vacation is all about getting out of Dodge and getting away from work. Vacation is about not being responsible and getting away from it all, which all sounds pretty good when life is hard. However, as good an escape sounds there can be even greater joy in moving towards a special time.
And that special time we can embrace is a holiday. The term holiday quite simply comes from “holy day”. While you might have a hard time wrapping your mind around the idea that students’ summer break is holy, the origin of the term comes from the few breaks that used to exist in people’s lives were special holy days typically remembering some saint or religious event.
When I think of a vacation, I think of trying to get away from everything, and as a parent of 3 active school-age boys, I can tell you vacations are not times of getting away from life, but a time when I am more than ever engaged in their lives (including telling the boys to stop bugging each other). If my goal in vacationing is to get away, I will be seriously disappointed. However, if I think of this time as a holiday, it is no longer an intrusion into my personal escape time, but rather becomes a holy time, a time set apart from everyday life where I can do cool things with my family and help us grow together.
The question that remains for us is can we re-imagine our vacations not merely as running away from the hard things of life, but see our holidays as an opportunity to reconnect with that which is holy, including God, nature, family, and ourselves?
Peace and Joy in Christ,
Pastor Dan Benson