School holidays (also referred to as vacations, breaks and recess) are the periods during which schools are closed. The dates and periods of school holidays vary considerably throughout the world, and there is usually some variation even within the same jurisdiction. Governments often legislate on the total number of school days for state schools. The holidays given below apply to primary and secondary education. Teaching sessions (terms or semesters) in tertiary education are usually shorter.
- 1 Terminology
- 2 Holidays in the world
- 2.1 Africa
- 2.2 America
- 2.3 Asia
- 2.4 Europe
- 2.4.1 Austria
- 2.4.2 Croatia
- 2.4.3 Czech Republic
- 2.4.4 Denmark
- 2.4.5 Estonia
- 2.4.6 France
- 2.4.7 Germany
- 2.4.8 Greece
- 2.4.9 Ireland
- 2.4.10 Italy
- 2.4.11 The Netherlands
- 2.4.12 Norway
- 2.4.13 Poland
- 2.4.14 Romania
- 2.4.15 Russian Federation
- 2.4.16 Slovakia
- 2.4.17 Sweden
- 2.4.18 United Kingdom
- 2.5 Oceania
- 3 Common practices and effects
- 4 References
In predominantly Christian countries, the "Christmas holidays" (or "winter break" or "winter recess" in some countries) include both the Christmas and New Year holidays. They normally last for about 2–3 weeks. However the Christmas holiday in Europe is shorter, sometimes 2 weeks or slightly less. In the southern hemisphere Christmas is in the summer holiday and the break is much longer (5 to 14 weeks).
In countries with a Christian religious tradition, Easter holiday (In the United States it is sometimes known as Spring Break or Spring Vacation) is a school holiday that takes place in the northern spring, with the date varying by country and level of schooling.
In all countries, the longest break in the school year is during summer, lasting between 5 and 14 weeks. In America, Ireland, Italy, Lithuania and Russia, summer holidays are normally three months, compared to six to eight weeks in Britain, The Netherlands and Germany. In Lithuania summer holiday for 9th and 11th grade begins few days later than 10th and 12th grade students. This is due to exams for those grades. In the past, upper level Lithuanian student had around 70 days of holiday. However, now the holiday lasts almost three months.
Holidays in the world
In South Africa, the main holiday usually lasts from early December to early or mid-January (5 or 6 weeks). There is an autumn break of up to 2-week in late March or early April, a longer winter break in late June and early July, and a spring break in late September or early October..
In Brazil, summer holidays start in early December and end in late January or early February. Winter holidays are generally the entire month of July. Some schools in the tropical north follow a different school year. The Brazilian Carnival is 40 days before Easter Sunday and those dates aren't school holidays.
In Canada, the summer holiday includes the months of July and August, with students returning to school in the first week of September. The Thanksgiving break is up to a week long and usually begins on the Saturday before the holiday. The winter break lasts for the two weeks (sometimes a day or two longer), beginning on Saturday, that encompass Christmas Day and New Year's Day. The spring break is one week long and normally begins on Good Friday (the Friday before Easter).
In Chile, Summer holidays start in mid-December and end in late February, with students returning to school in the last week of February or the first week of March. Winter holidays are generally 2 weeks in the month of July, returning to school the last week of July or the first week of August.
In Mexico, school usually ends in the last weeks of June and resumes the first week of September depending on what scheduling system a school uses, and whether it is high school or college. Christmas holiday is 3 weeks.
In the United States, there are typically 180 school days in a year (although school years at colleges and universities are often shorter). Private schools tend to have classes for 170 days each year, but sometimes have them more or fewer days.
Public schools from grades K-12 may have the following breaks or holidays:
- Thanksgiving Holiday or Break - Occurs at the end of November. This holiday usually consists of the week of Thanksgiving - 2 days before Thanksgiving, Thanksgiving Day, and the day after; the Friday before the break is often a half-day. Some areas have the Monday and Tuesday of the Thanksgiving week as regular days and take Wednesday as a half-day; with Thanksgiving and the day after off.
- Christmas or Holiday Break - Varies in length per school; usually starts at the third Saturday in December and ends a day or two after New Year's Day (sometimes the first Monday after the New Year's Day), unless New Year's Day falls on a Sunday in which case the first Monday (January 2) is the official holiday and schools may not begin until January 3; the most recent occurrence of this was in the 2011-12 holiday break when January 1, 2012 fell on a Sunday.
- Martin Luther King Day Break - Martin Luther King Day is always on the third Monday of January each year. Some students have a full or half-day Friday and have the weekend, Martin Luther King day, and sometimes Tuesday off.
- Easter Break - Usually lasts for one or two weeks in March or April (often starting on Lazarus Saturday). Also referred to as Spring Break.
- Columbus Day Break - Columbus Day is always the second Monday in October. Many schools take a week off, though some areas only take Columbus Day itself off. In some states, however, Columbus Day is not observed as a school holiday at all.
- Autumn or Fall Break - Usually lasts for one week in October (in the week of Columbus Day). See Columbus Day above.
- Winter Break - One week in February (usually at or around President's Day) or March (depending on the region).
- Spring Vacation or Break - See Easter Break above.
- Summer Vacation or Break - Lasts for about 12 weeks, starting anywhere from late May to late June, and ending anywhere from late August to the day after Labor Day in early September. This often depends on the region - for example, most schools in the Northeastern United States end in June and start just after Labor Day, while the majority of schools in the Southern U.S. have schools end in May and start again in August.
- Teacher's Day off - Exists in some school districts, being two to three days at any time in school calendar.
- All federal and state holidays - That includes religious holidays, such as Good Friday; and sometimes Jewish and Islamic holidays, depending on school demographic.
- Snow days - (in regions where it snows in winter) - Usually is one or two days because of a snowstorm, but can last anywhere up to a full week.
Note: Often in Charter Schools breaks are shorter due to the extended number of days students spend in school (200 days vs. 180 days for standard public schools).
Colleges and universities vary widely. Some closely follow the K-12 break schedule, others have the same but longer breaks to accommodate students who live farther away and wish to return home for holidays. Most colleges and universities have the following breaks/holidays:
- Thanksgiving Holiday - End of November (The week of Thanksgiving - 3 days before Thanksgiving, Thanksgiving Day, and the day after - the Friday before the break is considered a half-day).
- Christmas/Holiday Break - mid-December to late January
- Spring Break - a week in March or April (usually starting on Good Friday)
- Summer Break - Early/mid May to between late August and the day after Labor Day in September
- Snow Days (In regions where it snows in winter) - usually a few days up to a full week, and no days to make up.
Most colleges and university years are divided into two semesters. The first starting from day after Labor Day in early September until mid-December, and the second lasting from the end of January until early May. Winter and summer classes could be taken in between the breaks.
Summer holidays usually last from early July to end of August. The Chinese New Year is also a school holiday called winter holiday or winter break, which usually last 1 month.
In Hong Kong summer holidays last from mid-July to the end of August. Christmas, Lunar New Year and Easter holidays last usually for one and a half weeks.
In India, summer vacations start in the last of may to beginning of july.
The Diwali break begins in either October or November, depending on the month Diwali occurs in that year. It lasts for about 1 week. Christmas break begins a few days before Christmas and lasts till the weekend after New Year, never exceeding ten days.(also known as winter vacations).
There are many public holidays in India, depending on the region. Muslim holidays like Eid are enjoyed throughout the country by students of all religions.
In Indonesia, there are three main school holidays:
- New school year holiday - known as libur kenaikan kelas (up-grading holiday), usually takes place for 2-3 weeks between late June and early July. Dates are vary, depending on each province/region. The holiday starts from Monday on the first week to Saturday on the last week.
- Mid-term holiday, aims to separate the two semesters. It takes place for two weeks between late December and early January, coinciding with Christmas and New Year holidays. The starting and ending day are just like the new school year holiday.
- Eid al-Fitr holiday (or lebaran holiday), lasts for around two weeks. Date varies according to the Islamic calendar.
Beside the main holidays, there are many small holidays which takes place for 1-2 days, such as the Independence Day, religious breaks, and Teacher's Day.
In Japan, school holidays take place from late March to early April, from the late July until early September, and over the Christmas and New Year period from December 24 to January 7.
There are 2 main school holidays. One happens in late May until mid-early June, both to observe the Malaysian King's birthday (first Saturday of June) and to separate the two schooling terms. Another occurs from early November until the day before the first Monday or Wednesday the next year (January 3 if January 2 is Monday or Wednesday) in order to separate school years. Christmas and New Year's Day falls within this period. Mid-term breaks occur for one week each in March and August. Even though designated as holidays, some schools prefer to hold additional classes for a week.
In recent years, schools can get a week off to observe the Chinese New Year.
In the Philippines, summer break starts from the late March to early June, semestral break starts from late October to early November, and Christmas break starts from mid December to early January. Event-based holidays are declared by the President (for national holidays) and the provincial governor or city mayor for local holidays through the Department of Education (DepEd) for Basic Education and Commission on Higher Education (CHED) for Colleges. For the upcoming academic year 2013-2014, all public schools in the Philippines will start June 3, 2013 while private schools will start on June 10, 2013.
In Singapore, there are four school terms. Terms 1 and 2 are referred to as Semester 1, as terms 3 and 4 are referred to as Semester 2. Each term consists of ten school weeks. Term 1 starts the day immediately after New Year's Day. If the first school day is a Thursday or a Friday, it is not counted as a school week. After term 1, there is a break of a week, called the March Holidays. Thereafter, term 2 commences and is followed by a break of four weeks, the June Holidays. It is followed by term 3, after which there will be another break of one week, the September Holidays. Then, term 4 would start, and after it there is the December holidays, which would be either five or six weeks long, depending on whether the first week of the year was counted as a school week. Students are also given days off on public holidays, as well as Children's Day, Youth's Day, Teacher's Day and the day after National Day.
Winter holidays last from late January to early February (2 weeks). Summer holidays last from early June to late September (14 weeks).
- January 1 - New Year
- April 23 - National Sovereignty and Children's Day
- May 1 - Labour and Solidarity Day
- May 19 - Commemoration of Atatürk, Youth and Sports Day
- August 30 - Victory Day
- October 29 - Republic Day
In Austria, the summer holidays are usually between early July and early September. There is, with the exception of Vorarlberg and Salzburg, no Autumn break but there a Christmas break (from December 24 until January 6) and an Easter break (lasts for 10 days). The mid-term break in February lasts for a week and the Whitsun break lasts for 4 days including the weekend. There are also free days during religious holidays (Assumption, Ascension, Corpus Christi etc.).
In Croatia, there are three breaks throughout the school year at public schools.
- Summer break runs from mid-June to early September.
- Winter (Christmas) break starts several days before December 25 and ends after January 6.
- Spring (Easter) break lasts about 10 days.
Other free days include public holidays and local patron saint days.
In the Czech Republic, the summer holidays begin at the end of the school year on June 30 and end at the start of the school year in the first week of September. Then there are autumn holidays: two days plus October 28 (the date of the proclamation of Czechoslovakia). The winter (Christmas) holidays last usually from December 23 to January 2. There is also a one-day half term holiday on January 31. The spring holidays are a week long and may occur in February or March, depending on the region, sometimes they continue with Easter holidays (Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter Monday). There are also free days such as May 1, May 8 and September 28. The school director is authorised to add up to three more free days during the school year. The school holidays are determined by the Ministry of Schools for each school year and are valid for every basic and high school.
In Denmark the summer holiday lasts 6 weeks. Most schools also have one week of winter holiday and one week of autumn holiday, usually in February and October respectively. Finally, the schools are closed from just before Christmas until just after New Year.
French school holidays are scheduled each year by the Ministry of Education. This can lead to overcrowding in tourist resorts such as the Mediterranean coast and the ski resorts.
To alleviate this problem, the holiday schedules are staggered by dividing the country into three zones. Despite these measures, the synchronized school holiday schedules still cause some crowding effects, as families head to popular holiday locations all at the same time. This can result in price increases and availability problems in some locations during the school holiday periods. Holidays are divided into three separate zones except for the first two holidays: All Saints and the Christmas / New Year.
In Germany, summer holidays are mostly between July and late August, with regional differences. Some regions begin as soon as early to mid June, some end as late as the start of September. They last 6 weeks. Other holidays are around Easter (2 weeks), in autumn (1–2 weeks) and from mid- to end-December to the beginning of January (2 weeks). Depending on the state, further holidays can be around Pentecost or in winter between the first and the second half of the school year.
In Greece, there are three breaks throughout the school year at public schools.
- Summer holidays run from June to September. Holidays begin between June 10 and 20, and end around September 11.
- Christmas holidays begin around December 23 and end around January 8 (about 2 weeks).
- Easter holidays last 2 weeks, starting at the weekend before Holy Week, and ending one week after Easter Sunday.
The dates for the start and the end of the school year at both primary and post-primary level are not fixed, but mid-year breaks are standardised. Due to the start of certificate exams, post-primary schools are usually not open for tuition after the Friday before the June public holiday (the first Monday in June) in any year. The school year generally starts in the week in which September 1 falls, with a minimum of 183 teaching days in primary schools but only 167 days in secondary schools.
There are mid-term breaks in October and February, which last one week. There are two-week breaks at Christmas/New Year as well as at Easter. Summer holidays start around the last week of May or the first week of June for secondary schools, or the end of June for primary education, and end around the last week in August or the first week in September. The Junior Certificate and Leaving Certificate exams start on the first Wednesday in June, and last for two and a half weeks, intruding on students' summer holidays.
In Italy, most school holidays are determined by the Ministry of Education, University and Research, and are valid for all public schools of every order and grade. There are summer holidays from mid June up to the second week of September, except for students taking final exams in the Elementary, Middle and Superior schools, as those exams can go on until the last week of June. Christmas holidays start on December 23 and end on the first or second working day after January 6; other holidays include one week around Easter as well as one day on December 8 (Feast of the Immaculate Conception), two days for October 31 and November 1 (All Saints), the national holidays of April 25 (Liberation day) and June 2 (Republic Day), as well as the Workers' Day (May 1). Locally, school authorities have freedom upon the establishment of the lessons calendar to grant further vacation days on important local festivals (e.g. the local Patron saint day).
In the Netherlands, summer holidays last for six weeks for elementary schools and seven weeks for high schools. The country is divided in three regions which start their summer holidays one week after another. Summer holidays usually start in mid-July and end in late August. Dutch elementary and high school students also have a one week autumn holiday in mid October, two weeks of Christmas holidays, usually the last two weeks of December, as well as one week "crocus/spring holidays" in February (for the south during Carnaval), and "May holidays", which last one week for high schools and two weeks for elementary schools. May holidays span a period of national holidays such as King's Day (former Queen's Day) (April 27), Remembrance of the Dead (May 4) and Liberation Day (May 5) and sometimes include Ascension Day and Pentecost
In Norway, school holidays vary by region. Generally, the school year starts around the third week of August. Most regions have a week off at the beginning of October (weeks 40 or 41). Christmas holidays start some days before Christmas Eve and end in the first week of January. There is one week of winter vacation in late February (weeks 8 or 9). Easter holiday is from Palm Sunday to Easter Monday or a day or two later, and Summer holidays begin some days before midsummer. 
All public schools have the following breaks/holidays:
- November 1 - All Saints Day, 1 day break
- November 11 - Independence Day, 1 day break
- January 6 - the Epiphany, 1 day break
- Christmas Break - December 23 to first day of school week after New Year's
- Winter Break - two weeks in January or February (depending on region)
- Easter Break - usually Thursday before Easter Sunday to Tuesday after
- May Break - May 1 (Labor Day), May 2 (Polish Flag Day) and May 3 (Constitution of May 3)
- Corpus Christi - one day in May or June (depending on year)
- Summer Break - usually last week of June to 1st week of September, school year starts at September 1 (or the first school week day after)
Summer holidays run from June to early September and are around 12 weeks long. Spring break - one week in April or May (it depends on when Easter is in that year) Winter break - two weeks ( it starts in the penultimate week of December and it usually ends on the first or second Monday of January)
There is a break in February between the first and the second simester - one week
Fall Break (just for the primary school) - one week in October
All public schools have the following holidays:
- Winter Break - two weeks in January
- Spring Break - one week in April
- Fall Break - one week in November
- Summer Break - from May 25 to September 1
- February 23 - Men's Day or Defender's Day
- March 8 - International Women's Day
- May 1 - Spring and Labour Day
- May 9 - Victory Day
- November 4 - Day of the National Unity
In Slovakia, summer holidays begin at the end of school year on June 30 and end at the start of the school year in the first week of September. The autumn holidays are at the end of October. The winter (Christmas) holidays usually last from December 22 to January 6. There is also a one day half term holiday on January 31. The spring holidays are a week long and may be in February or March, depending on region. Next are the Easter holidays (Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter Monday). There are also free days such as May 1, May 8, September 1, September 15, and November 17. The school director is authorised to add up to three more free days during school year. The school holidays are determined by the Ministry of Schools and are valid for every basic and high school.
In Sweden, the school year starts around mid or late August (September 1 at the universities). The week before All Saint's Day (taken as a Saturday around November 1) primary and secondary school students have an autumn holiday. Christmas holiday starts around December 18–21, depending on the day of the week on which Christmas Eve occurs. It usually ends in the second week of January (January 6 is also a public holiday). In the 8th–10th weeks after New Year, primary and secondary school students have one week of winter vacation; the exact week varies by location. Easter public holidays last four days from Friday to Monday. Easter school holidays are either the week preceding Easter or the week immediately following, depending on location. Primary and secondary school summer holidays last about ten weeks, starting in the second week of June.
School holidays in the United Kingdom follow a standard pattern, with a school year of 190 days of teaching, beginning with the Autumn Term, but the exact timing varies between countries and counties.
England and Wales
Summer holidays in State schools are usually six or seven weeks long, starting in late July and ending in early September. Schools have Christmas and Easter holidays, each usually lasting about two weeks. The school year is split up into three sections: Autumn term (between Summer and Christmas); Spring term (between Christmas and Easter); and Summer term (between Easter and the Summer holiday). Roughly halfway through each term, pupils will get one week off school, known as half-term.
Independent schools often have longer holidays including up to 10 weeks for Summer, but often have longer school days and sometimes lessons on Saturday mornings.
See School Holidays in England for the impact of school holidays on tourism and life for parents and others.
In Scotland the academic year usually begins in the third week of August. In October, there are two weeks off, which is the half-way point between Summer and Christmas holidays. The Christmas holiday usually begins a few days before December 25 and ends a few days after January 5. There is up to a week off half-way through the Spring term and a two-week break for Easter. After Easter is Summer term and the 3rd half term break is the halfway point to the summer holidays. The summer holiday usually begins at the end of June for most pupils in years 1–7 and secondary years 1–3. Years 4, 5, and 6 have a period of exam leave at the end of May or early June, but may return for the last few weeks before the summer holiday starts.
Schools in Northern Ireland have shorter mid-term breaks and a longer summer holiday from early July to early September.
In most Australian schools there are four terms separated by breaks. The summer holidays start in mid-December and last until the beginning of February for most schools. In year 12, however, the term ends in November; for those who go on to university, the term starts in March. There is a two-week autumn holiday in April (often incorporating the Easter public holidays), and another two weeks in late June or early July. The September Holidays are also two weeks, typically from late September. The main exception to the four-term structure used to be Tasmania, which had three academic terms, with school holidays in early June and September, but is moving to a 4 Term Year in 2013.
Common practices and effects
Summer holidays for most children are a time to relax, enjoy themselves, and catch up on studies, or to spend time with family or relatives. Many families travel together on school holidays. The old purpose of the summer break, to free children to help with the harvest, is now relevant only in a minority of farming and rural families in most countries.
School holidays have many effects on a country, ranging from the price of travel and holiday accommodation, which increase as demand increases while children are off school, to a change in crime rate: Example UK crime rate monthly figures. Traffic congestion and heavy passenger loads on public transport on school run routes may be worse on school days during term time. The number of families taking holidays away from urban areas can reduce traffic and use of public transport in cities while loading long-distance highways and means of transport.
In some countries, including Germany, France and Australia, where many families travel to their holiday destinations, the start and end dates of school holidays in different regions are staggered to reduce the heavy traffic and pressure on means of transport that would otherwise occur on these dates.
- U.S Deptartment of Education survey 2001-2
- Estonian Ministry of Education and Research
- .fixed holidays
- Department of Education and Skills circular 0034/2011
- holiday calendar for Ireland
- List of UK school holidays
- Official Australian School Holidays