Updated: Oct 31, 2020
Well actually we are not, the best we might get is at least a break from routine, for some of us the routine has not altered and the only things that remind us of the Summer holidays are people asking us questions like:
“Were you going away this year?'' or “Are you still planning on going away this year?''
At this point it is reasonable to assume that many families would have enjoyed their annual break by now. Irrespective of the answer the weather is something we all have in common.
I remember one year from January to April it rained every single day. I kept a mental note. No one wants the prospect of climate change but a clearer distinction between the seasons would be nice. You get what you are given however and that is the power of nature. I have always enjoyed six weeks off work as an ex-teacher with commonly five of those with my children as they have different holidays to me, and personally it has been great.
Not everyone feels the same however about this long expanse of time and there are of course considerations about child-care and finances to consider for many UK families. The holiday period overall has taken on a different meaning this year, one that we cannot escape from.
So, I thought it timely to consider where the long school holiday’s originated from.
I understand Christmas, Easter and Whit holidays as they are clearly marked by Christian festivals, but what about the six weeks in Summer?
Although not the typical British summer expected, apart from the weather the prospect of the “long Summer break” seems to be ingrained in British culture for the foreseeable future. In countries like India and Uruguay you still have holidays for the Summer season and in Great Britain and many other European or Western countries I may be the first to tell you that there is a reference to Christian worship at the origins of these lengthy holidays. Christianity is at the heart of the origins of the long break.
History and origins
The word holiday is derived from the two words holy day.
It is easy to discern where the holy day is reflected in the most common of festivals that are overtly acknowledged today and are referenced above, but it is not so obvious when considering the six weeks of Summer?
Most have at least heard of the antiquated necessity for children to help farmers work in the fields over the summer and believe this to be the reason why children have six weeks holiday. The problem with this is that the current British school system we know of, was developed over the course of the 19th century. At this point English farms were increasingly mechanised and having children helping with the harvest would only have been necessary for a small percentage of the population. Also, if the six weeks holiday ends at the start of September, there will be no children around to bring in the harvest in the early autumn, a particularly busy time of the farming calendar. So, whatever the origin of six weeks off at the height of summer is, it is not for the sake of farmers.
While living in the Middle Ages didn’t have a lot to recommend it, what with a short life expectancy, war and plagues and a lot of praying to relieve the drudgery, there were more holidays or holy days that you might expect. The older you are the more holidays –you could enjoy. They were for the adults and not the children. This ‘holiday’ or ‘holy day’, often remembered a saint’s day in the Christian calendar, and holy days were an important part of medieval life. They could mean time off work, and this certainly meant an excuse for a party. Adults only you see.
These types of holy days were frequent. Any excuse to worship God of course. To get an idea of just how frequent, the Church of England currently celebrates nine Principal Feasts, three Principal Holy Days, and 26 Festivals – it doesn’t count Festivals and Lesser Festivals either. You would not necessarily get time off on all these days (and there was no concept of a weekend, only of Sunday as a day of rest) but it certainly was not a time of uninterrupted hard labour. Holy days were compulsory.
Earlier I referred to the questions that are commonly asked during this holiday period are often suffixed with “Where do you go”? alluding to idea that there is some status attached to the response. With a keeping up with the ‘Jones’ attitude still part of a FOMO culture you might today hear “Oh we are only going to mainland Spain/Wales/weekend break/a staycation this year”. Reinforcing the claim that there is some cache to travelling to ….somewhere… the longer, the more exotic, unusual or interesting the better.
Will we still feel the same about travelling in the future with the mindset we have been forced to adopt?
Surely going anywhere is better than going nowhere and if this is true then a bold response to this question about our travels should be stated with confidence and more importantly an inner belief that the benefits from any travelling are ours to enjoy and learn from.
Incidentally in some parts of India they have 10 days Summer holiday and in Uruguay it is 3 months. I am not sure which one I prefer!
Who would you like to spend a lengthy summer break with? What would you do?
To help reduce climate change should there be restrictions on how far we travel for holidays? Would you be happy to restrict your holiday destinations?
Away from work we have the time to focus on our own perspective on life, what we value, our ambitions and how we are going to achieve them. What else can you do outside of holiday time to give yourself the freedom to think?
Explore when why and what happens in long summer breaks in a different culture. Ask someone in your workplace or in an online community what happens? Share your experiences with each over a coffee break.
Discuss with your kids, comment below and feel free to suggest other topics to talk about.
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PD/SMSC Educational Consultant