Happy Holi-days!!

Posted by on Dec 17, 2011 in Faith | 3 comments

I used to think that saying Happy Holidays was a nice way of including all the holidays into one saying; for example, ‘Happy Thanksgiving,’ ‘Merry Christmas,’ ‘Happy Hanukkah’ & ‘Happy New Year.’ I was an adult before I ever realized that this was not an all inclusive phrase, but an exclusive one. One to exclude Christ from Christmas.

Recent, though, it occurred to me to look up the origin of the word ‘holiday.’ We go on holiday if you’re British, and we celebrate holidays throughout they year. Most holidays aren’t around Christmastime, actually. We celebrate President’s Day, Labor Day, Memorial Day, Veteran’s Day, Thanksgiving Day, the Fourth of July, etc. Really, the ‘holidays’ does refer to the largest grouping – late November through New Year’s.

But I was writing the word ‘holiday’ and I paused half way through because I was interrupted. I looked down and saw ‘holi.’ I wondered what the origin was and I assumed that the original meaning behind ‘holiday’ was ‘holy day.’ One super quick Google later and Wiki told me this:

“The word holiday derived from the notion of “Holy Day”, and gradually evolved to its current form.

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 away from work or school.”

Ah ha!! So it DOES derive from Holy Day. If you go back far enough, there were many many Holy Days of Obligation throughout the year. Our 16th century Catholics would really have though we were quite lazy with our few throughout the year because about 1/3 of the liturgical year was made up of Holy Days back then. These Holy Days weren’t quite holidays like we know them now. People still had to go to work, but they were allowed to go to Mass on these Holy Days.

Fast forward a few centuries and now the secular community uses the term to exclude Christ. But you know what?

I don’t mind.

Happy Holidays, to me was an exclusive phrase that meant the person saying it was trying to be nice, but wanted to be unoffensive and all inclusive. Now it means so much more to me. When someone says Happy Holidays! to me I think back to the Christmases of old, back to the holidays that centuries past have celebrated and loved and I think that even if this person, trying to be PC has missed the whole point, I know the point.

Christmas is a holy day. It’s a Holi-day. It is a holiday.

Next time someone says Happy Holidays to you, don’t cringe in religious self righteousness, remember that Christmas is a Holy Day and they are wishing you the best of Holy Days. A great response? ‘You too! And God bless you!’

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