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A holiday is a day set aside by custom or by law in which normal activities, especially business or work, are to be suspended or reduced. Generally holidays are intended to allow individuals to celebrate or commemorate something of cultural or religious significance. Holidays may be designated by governments, religious institutions, or other groups or organizations. The degree to which normal activities are reduced by a holiday may depend on local laws, customs, or even personal choices.
The concept of holidays has most often originated as religious observances. The intention of a holiday was typically to allow individuals to tend to religious duties associated with important dates on the calendar. In most modern societies, however, holidays serve as much of a recreational function as anything else.
In many societies there are important distinctions between holidays designated by governments and holidays designated by religious institutions. In many predominantly Christian nations, for example, government-designed holidays may center around Christian holidays though non-Christians may instead observe religious holidays associated with their faith. In some cases, a holiday may only be nominally observed. For example, many Jews in the Americas and Europe treat the relatively minor Jewish holiday of Chanukah as a working holiday, changing very little of their daily routines for this day.
The word holiday derived from the notion of "Holy Day".
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.
Types of holiday (observance) 
Religious holidays 
Many holidays are linked to faiths and religions (see etymology above). Christian holidays are defined as part of the liturgical year, the chief ones being Easter and Christmas. The Orthodox Christian and Western-Roman Catholic patronal feast day or 'name day' are celebrated in each place's patron saint's day, according to the Calendar of saints. Jehovah's Witnesses annually observe "The Passover". In Islam, the largest holidays are Eid ul-Fitr (immediately after Ramadan) and Eid al-Adha (at the end of the Hajj). Hindus, Jains and Sikhs observe several holidays, one of the largest being Diwali (Festival of Light). Japanese holidays contain references to several different faiths and beliefs. Celtic, Norse, and Neopagan holidays follow the order of the Wheel of the Year. Some are closely linked to Swedish festivities. The Bahá'í Faith observes holidays as defined by the Bahá'í calendar. Jews have two holiday seasons: the Spring Feasts of Pesach (Passover) and Shavuot (Weeks, called Pentecost in Greek); and the Fall Feasts of Rosh Hashanah (Head of the Year), Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement), Sukkot (Tabernacles), and Shemini Atzeret (Eighth Day of Assembly).
Northern Hemisphere winter holidays 
Winter in the Northern Hemisphere features many holidays that involve festivals and feasts. The Christmas and holiday season surrounds the winter solstice, Christmas and other holidays, and is celebrated by many religions and cultures. Usually, this period begins near the start of November and ends with New Year's Day. Holiday season is, somewhat, a commercial term that applies, in the US, to the period that begins with Thanksgiving and ends with New Year's Eve. Some Christian countries consider the end of the festive season to be after the feast of Epiphany.
National holidays 
Sovereign nations and territories observe holidays based on events of significance to their history. For example, Americans celebrate Independence Day, celebrating the signing of the Declaration of Independence in 1776.
Secular holidays 
Several secular holidays are observed, such as Earth Day or, Arbor Day, or Labor Day, both internationally, and across multi-country regions, often in conjunction with organizations such as the United Nations. Many other days are marked to celebrate events or people, but are not strictly holidays as time off work is rarely given.
Unofficial holidays 
These are holidays that are not traditionally marked on calendars. These holidays are celebrated by various groups and individuals. Some promote a cause, others recognize historical events not officially recognized, and others are "funny" holidays celebrated with humorous intent. For example, Monkey Day celebrated on December 14, International Talk Like a Pirate Day observed on September 19, and Blasphemy Day is September 30.
See also 
- Reasoning from the Scriptures. Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania. 1985, revised 1989. pp. 176–182.
- Susan E. Richardson (July 2001). Holidays & Holy Days: Origins, Customs, and Insights on Celebrations Through the Year. Vine Books. ISBN 0-8307-3442-2.
- Lucille Recht Penner and Ib Ohlsson (September 1993). Celebration: The Story of American Holidays. MacMillan Publishing Company. ISBN 0-02-770903-5.
- Barbara Klebanow and Sara Fischer (2005). American Holidays: Exploring Traditions, Customs, and Backgrounds. Pro Lingua Associates. ISBN 0-86647-196-0.
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- Holidays at the Open Directory Project
- Holiday Calendar for all countries
- "Where Holiday Traditions Come From". LIFE. September 10, 2005.
- Lallanilla, Marc (November 24, 2004). "Holiday Stress Brings Anxiety and Abuse". ABC News.