rating: 0+x

Basic Information

Etymologically holiday is fairly directly derived from "holy day" and originally implied a day on which normal business and commerce was suspended either for a religious festival or because it was considered unlucky to conduct business on that date. Examples include the dies nefasti of the Roman calendar (which came in a variety of subcategories) and the Jewish Sabbath. These could be routine (such as the Sabbath coming around every seven days) or extraordinary - especially in those cultures who believed strongly in omens, wherein a public seer could bring the community to a grinding halt by spotting some unlucky portent. Later societies would begin to include secular or semi-secular festivals into the calendar. This Category covers various types of holidays. These could be religious festivals, national observances, or generally holy days. They could be widely observed, or local customs, tied to a specific religious group or purely secular; or sometimes all of the above. Some holidays may be observed in different fashions in different location. Confusingly, the term "holiday" may also, especially in British English, refer to what American English might call a vacation or leave of absence - term of remitted labour accompanied by travel - the nearest historical equivalent to this, barring the sightseeing tours carried out by the occasional aristocrat - would probably be some forms of pilgrimage which, judging by the narrative of Chaucer, took on aspects of leisure travel by the later middle ages.

Note that most pre-modern societies observed a lot of holy days by modern standards - whilst we are used to a handful of public holidays a year, our ancestors might well have expected dozens, many of them tied directly to events in the agricultural year.

[note: I put down most of the "shopping holidays" I could think of that are big in the U.S. and most of the Federal holidays; It's pretty long and doesn't even touch non-American holidays; we'll probably need to divide it into sub-categories —quark]

See Also


1. full source reference

Game and Story Use

  • Holidays and festivals can be used as background for an adventure
    • Traditionally, there is always a St Patrick's day parade going on in New York, and it is always carnival in New Orleans.
    • Cliches aside, in a (pseudo)medieval setting, there is a significant chance that everything is closed for the day for some local festival and/or a parade going on.
  • Themes and customs connected to a specific holiday could become plot relevant
  • The cultural traditions surrounding an existing holiday can be adapted for an original holiday in an alien or fantasy setting.
  • Conflict can break out on a commemorative holiday between groups who were on opposite sides of the event commemorated. Unless both sides are minorities, this will usually be an excuse for whichever side is currently dominant to excoriate and/or persecute the other. Where a balance of power exists, the blame may be more evenly shared.
  • Insurgent groups may use a particular festival as a signal for action, whether to hijack the festivities for their own ends, disrupt them as an act of protest or use them as cover for more direct action.
    • An extreme example in Bernard Cornwell's Warlord Chronicles where the Saxons attack during the Celtic fire festival at Beltane, knowing that the fires of the emergency beacon network set up to warn of just such an attack would go unnoticed amongst all the other blazes.
Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License