When Covid 19 hit in March 2020 all plans were thrown into disarray. Being confined to our own homes, with limited time allocated for exercise and necessary shopping was something none of us had ever experienced. As the ramifications gradually became clear, one of the problems which faced many of us was the doubt cast over our holiday plans. For a time it seemed that those booked for later in the year could still take place, but then it became clear that this would not be the case, so for a year, longer in some cases, most of us had to remain at home.
I have recently returned from a week in Cornwall, and to leave my home and enjoy time away in the company of members of my family was a joy. It made me reflect on how important the annual holiday has become to many of us.
The word ’holiday’ is essentially a British one; in the USA it is usually referred to as a vacation. And, like so many words which we use without considering their origin, it is Christian-based. The Old English word from which is comes is haligdaeg, literally ‘holy day’ and a quick glance at the lectionary will show that there are many holy days which were once commemorated, only some of which we still keep – 29th June is the Feast day of Peter and Paul, for example. Holy days enabled workers to have a short break; sometimes this might include a pilgrimage, and Chaucer’s ‘Canterbury Tales’ which is an account of a group travelling from London to Canterbury, is an example of this.
Now, of course, the religious connection has been lost, but the importance of a time of rest and relaxation is recognised as a necessary part of a healthy life. Without a break from the regular routine, whether that be work or retirement activities, life can become something of a burden. A holiday provides refreshment for body, mind and spirit.
Without such a break life can lose its colour and its richness. As we can once again spend time away from home, in unfamiliar places we give thanks for our holiday, our holy day which enriches our lives and renews our strength.