HOLIDAY, originally the " holy day," a festival set apart for religious observances as a memorial of some sacred event or sacred person; hence a day on which the ordinary work or business ceases. For the religious sense see FEASTS AND FESTIVALS, and SUNDAY. Apart from the use of the term for a single day of rest or enjoyment, it is commonly used in the plural for a recognized and regular period (as at schools, Sic.) of absence from work. It is unnecessary here to deal with what may be regarded as private holidays, which are matters of agreement between, employer and employed or between the authorities of this or that institution and those who attend it. In recent years there has been a notable tendency in most occupations to shorten the hours of labour, and make holidays more regular. It will suffice to deal here with public holidays, the observance of which is prescribed by the state. In one respect these have been diminished, in so far as saints' days are no longer regarded as entailing non-attendance at the government offices in England, as was the case at the beginning of the 19th century. But while the influence of religion in determining such holidays has waned, the importance of making some compulsory provision for social recreation has made itself felt. In England four days, known as Bank Holidays (q.v.), are set apart by statute to be observed as general holidays, while the sovereign may by proclamation appoint any day to be similarly observed. Endeavours have been made from time to time to get additional days recognized as general holidays, such as Empire Day (May 24th), Arbor Day, etc. In the British colonies there is no uniform practice. In Canada eight days are generally observed as public holidays: New Year's Day, Good Friday, Easter Monday, Christmas Day, the birthday of the sovereign, Victoria Day, Dominion Day and Labour Day. Some of the provinces have followed the American example by adding an Arbor Day. Alberta and Saskatchewan observe Ash Wednesday. In Quebec, where the majority of the population is Roman Catholic, the holy days are also holidays, namely, the Festival of the Epiphany, Ash Wednesday, Good Friday, Easter Monday, the Ascension, All Saint's Day, Conception Day, Christmas Day. In 1897 Labour Day was added. In New South Wales, the 1st of January, Good Friday, Easter Eve, Easter Monday, the birthday of the sovereign, the 1st of August, the birthday of the prince of Wales, Christmas Day and the 26th of December, are observed as holidays. In Victoria there are thirteen public holidays during the year, and in Queensland fourteen. In New Zealand the public holidays are confined to four, Christmas Day, New Year's Day, Good Friday and Labour Day. In most of the other British colonies the usual number of public holidays is from six to eight.
In the United States there is no legal holiday in the sense of the English bank holidays. A legal holiday is dependent upon state and territorial legislation. It is usual for the president to proclaim the last Thursday in November as a day of thanksgiving; this makes it only a legal holiday in the District of Columbia, and in the territories, but most states make it a general holiday. Independence Day (July 4th) and Labour Day (first Monday in September) are legal holidays in most states. There are other days which, in connexion with particular events or in remembrance of particular persons, have been made legal holidays by particular states. For example, Lincoln's birthday, 'Washington's birthday, Memorial Day (May 3Oth) , Patriots' Day (April igth, Maine and Mass.), R. E. Lee's birthday (Jan. ipth, Ala., Fla., Ga., Va.), Pioneers' Day (July 24th, Utah), Colorado Day (Aug. ist), Battle of New Orleans (Jan. 8th, La.), Bennington Battle Day (Aug. i6th, Vt.) , Defenders's Day (Sept. 12th, Md.) , Arbor Day (April 22nd, Nebraska; second Friday in May R.I., etc.), Admission Day (September gth, Cal.; Oct. 3ist, Nev.), Confederate Memorial Day (April 26th, Ala., Fla., Ga., Miss., May loth, N. & S. Car., June 3rd, La., Miss., Texas), etc.
See M'Curdy, Bibliography of Articles relating to Holidays (Boston, 1905). (T. A. I.)
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)