The holiday season is upon us! While some of us are booming, “Ho, Ho, Ho,” with glee, others are groaning, “No, No, No,” as they look their lists of seasonal tasks.
Is it truly a holiday – aka a day off from work in our modern world — if you have to labour away like a madman or madwoman to prepare for it? In fact, where did the term, holiday, originate?
Initially, the word holiday wasn’t synonymous only with relaxation, but with religious celebration, too. As the Daily Bulletin (www.dailybulletin.com) explains, it is a combination of the words holy and day that were first joined in Old English. Halig meant holy and daeg referred to day, and haligdaeg referred to a day of religious observance and recreation.
By saying, “Happy Holiday,” you were offering good wishes for a day free of toil. It generally referred to Christian observances in the days of Beowulf and Grendel, but, today, the word denotes a festival celebrated by people of any religious tradition, as well as public civic observances. Diwali and Canada Day are both holidays, for example. In Canada, the term, holiday season, usually encompasses Christmas; Chanukah, the Jewish Festival of Lights; and the New Year.
Christmas is a term deriving from the Old English word, Cristesmaesse, or Christ’s Mass. The word, Christ, derives from the Latin, Christus, and the Greek, Christos, meaning the anointed one. Mass, the evolution of maesse, can refer to a festival, feast day or mass. Today, people rarely refer to the literal translation, but the name fits the celebration of Jesus Christ’s birth perfectly.
As for Chanukah, the holiday’s name is an editor’s nightmare. The Hebrew word means dedication and it refers to the rededication of the Holy Temple after its destruction by the Greeks in the Second Century B.C.E. (Before the Common Era). However, translating it to English phonetically from the Hebrew poses a problem, because English doesn’t have the CH sound that starts the word; it’s similar to the CH in Scottish words such as loch. Nor is there a worldwide standard for translating certain letters. So, use your style guide or take your pick: Chanukah, Hanukah, Hanukkah, Chanuka … any way you spell it, it’s a day to celebrate!
Happy Holidays, all! Despite all the seasonal commitments, here’s hoping you take some time to truly relax. Here’s to a wonderful New Year!