Make Every Day a 'Holyday'

First published September 2016

The Reverend John Chandler reflects on the origin of 'holidays' and their purpose.

At the very time when life seemed to be at its busiest and most complicated, I had to take two weeks off. At the time, I could have done without it, but it was booked and paid for, and life with June wouldn’t have been worth living if we hadn't gone. I recognise now that I felt that way because I really did need a holiday, and it was good to get back refreshed, refocused and re-energised; and the opportunity to do something different or even do nothing was appreciated!

The pattern of holidays in this country seems to have its roots in agriculture, with children once needed in the fields at the height of the summer and adults often lending a hand too (either to help get the local harvest in, or 'hopping down in Kent'). Then the Industrial Revolution had a say too, requiring workers to be in the factories six days a week throughout the year, then all being away at the same time for two weeks, or even just one 'Wakes Week'. In many countries, school summer holidays last two or even three months – and for some reason, Antipodeans have their summer holidays at Christmas!

The modern way is to take holidays when it suits us – such as the most convenient time to leave work, or when all family members can be together, or the flight is cheapest – leading to the current debate about taking children out of school. I know that’s disruptive, and we need to think of others when we plan to be away, but there’s one thing that’s very right about going away when we feel it’s right for us, and that’s the very word 'holiday'. It’s origin is 'Holy Day'; time off to celebrate or remember the key dates in the calendar. The word 'Holy' itself just means 'set apart' – so we speak of our Holy God, who is by His very nature set apart; and holy people, who have decided that they will set themselves apart from unholy things so that they can devote themselves, their time and their work, to God.

Shouldn’t we all set ourselves apart from unholy things, and not just temporarily? Perhaps the holidays provide an opportunity to take stock of what we do and why, so that afterwards our lives are not only refreshed, but renewed – with a new focus on things that really matter. Then every day will be a holyday!


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