The word holiday has related but different meanings in English-speaking countries, with the exception of the United States where usage differs greatly. Based on the English words holy and day, holidays originally represented special days of the Christian Church calendar. The word has evolved in general usage to mean any special day.
In the United States, a holiday is 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) observation or activity. In the United States, a holiday can also be a non-special day on which school and/or offices are closed such as Sunday. In late 20th century, Saturday has become increasingly considered holiday as well as Sunday.
In most of the rest of the English speaking world (including Australia, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand, South Africa, and the United Kingdom) a holiday is rather a period spent away from home or business in travel or recreation (e.g. "I'm going on holiday to Majorca next week."). The American equivalent being "vacation". The term farmy holidays is used in reference to agritourism.
A public holiday or legal holiday is a holiday endorsed by the state. Public holidays can be either religious, in which case they reflect the dominant religion in a country, or secular, in which case they are usually political or historical in character. "Public Holiday" is the term used in Australia, and "Bank Holiday" in the UK, although some industries in the UK work through Bank Holidays. "Legal Holiday" is not a term used outside the United States.
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, for example. In late 1990s, the Japanese government passed a law that increases the likelihood of consecutive holidays by moving holidays fixed on certain day to a relative position in a month such as the second Monday. A well-known consecutive holiday in Japan is golden-week, roughly lasting a whole week. Similar phenomenon appears in Poland during holidays of 1st and 3rd of May, when taking few days of leave can result in even 9 days long holidays. This is called The Picnic (or Majówka).
The Congress of the United States changed the observance of Memorial Day, Veterans Day, and Washington's Birthday from fixed dates to certain Mondays in 1968 (effective 1971). Several states had passed similar laws earlier.
In the order of the Wheel of the Year:
- Samhain (Celtic): Oct 31-Nov 1, Celtic New Year, first day of winter
- Winternights (Norse): Oct 29-Nov 2, Norse New Year
- Yule (Norse): Dec 21-22, winter solstice, Celtic mid-winter
- Imbolc (Celtic): Feb 1-2, Celtic first day of spring
- Ostara/Easter (Norse): Mar 21-22, vernal equinox, Celtic mid-spring
- Beltane (Celtic): Apr 31-May 1, Celtic first day of summer
- Litha (Norse): Jun 21-22, summer solstice, Celtic mid-summer
- Lughnasadh (Celtic): Aug 1-2, Celtic first day of autumn
- Mabon/Harvest End (Norse): Sep 21-22, autumnal equinox, Celtic mid-fall
See also liturgical year.
The Catholic fiestas patronales are celebrated in each place's patron saint's day, according to the Calendar of saints.
Main article: Jewish holidays
See the list of holidays by country.
International holidays (secular)
Many other days are marked to celebrate events or people, but are not strictly holidays as time off work is rarely given.
Other secular holidays
Other secular holidays limited to only some (groups of) countries include:
Humorous, entertaining holidays
Some humorous events have captured the attention of the public, to the point where they have been promoted as annual events. These "funny" holidays are generally intended as humorous distractions and excuses to share laughs among friends.
- Google category: Holidays -- Calendars and Lists (http://directory.google.com/Top/Society/Holidays/Calendars_and_Lists/)
- Sharp calendar of religious festivals (http://www.support4learning.org.uk/shap/)
- Holiday Stress Brings Anxiety and Abuse (http://abcnews.go.com/Health/story?id=276559&page=1) (ABC News)