The words holiday or vacation have related meanings in different English-speaking countries and continents, but will usually refer to one of the following activities or events:
A holiday or vacation trip/break will often be undertaken during specific holiday observances, or be made for specific festivals or celebrations. Certain religious holidays may be of a more somber nature. Vacation or holidays are often used as a time to spend with friends or family.
Canadians often use the terms vacation and holiday interchangeably when referring to a trip away from home or time off work. In Australia, the term can refer to a vacation or gazetted public holiday, but not to a day of observance such as Mothers' Day or Halloween.
Most countries around the world have labor laws mandating employers give a certain number of paid days of time off per year to be given to a worker. In nearly all Canadian provinces, the legal minimum is three weeks, while in most of Europe the limit is significantly higher. The U.S. does not require employers to give a set mandatory vacation time. However, in the free-market labor system in the United States, many employers offer paid vacation, typically 10 to 20 days work days, as an incentive to attract employees, and under U.S. federal law, an employee whose employment terminates generally must receive compensation for any accrued but unused vacation time. Additionally, the vast majority of American employers provide for paid national holidays, such as Christmas, New Years, Independence Day, Memorial Day, Labor Day, and Thanksgiving Day.
While U.S. federal law and most state's laws provide for leave, such as medical leave, there are movements attempting to remove vacation time as a factor in the free-market labor pool and, instead, require mandatory vacation time for American workers, such as timeday.org
In some cases "vacation holiday" is used in North America, which signifies that a vacation trip is taken during a traditional national holiday period, extended on either end of the period by taking additional time off from work. This is common in the United States where employers give far fewer annual vacation days than European employers—so stretching the related national holidays tends to conserve one's accumulated total of eligible days available for longer quality vacation excursions. This is often termed a "long weekend", if a national holiday falls next to a weekend. When national holidays fall on a normal non-working day, such as a weekend, they will sometimes be carried over to the next working day.
In the United Kingdom, there is an annual issue for parents, who only have the mandated summer holidays in order to plan vacations. Accordingly, holiday companies charge higher prices, giving an incentive for parents to use their work vacation time in term time.
Several holidays are linked to faiths and religions. Christian holidays are defined as part of the liturgical year. The Catholic patronal feast day or 'name day' are celebrated in each place's patron saint's day, according to the Calendar of saints. In Islam, the largest holidays are Eid and Ramadan. 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), Chag Ha-Matzot (Festival of Unleavened Bread), and Shavuot (Weeks, called Pentacost in Greek); and the Fall Feasts of Yom Teruah (Day of Blasting, also called Rosh HaShannah), Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement), and Sukkot (Tabernacles).
The winter months in the Northern Hemisphere see the observance of many holidays considered a season, often accompanied by festivals and feasts. The winter holiday season is known as a period of time surrounding Christmas that was formed in order to embrace all cultural and religious celebration rather than only Christian celebrations. Usually, this period begins near the start of November and ends with New Year's Day on January 1. The holiday season is usually commercially referred to with a broad interpretation, avoiding the reference of specific holidays like Hanukkah or Christmas. Traditional "holiday season" festivities are usually associated with winter, including snowflakes and wintry songs. In some Christian countries, the end of the festive season is considered to be after the feast of Epiphany, although this is only within the Christian creed.Winter holiday greetings are traditionally a part of the winter holiday season.