Ireland and the Word 'Holiday'
Did you know that ancient Ireland was the birthplace of the word 'holiday'? Well, let me tell you how it all started.
In ancient Ireland, the Celtic Pagans celebrated the Festival of the Dead which was observed on May 13th. The Gaelic word they used was Samhain, pronounced Sawwen. The Celts believed that the souls of all those who passed away that year would ascend into the after life on Samhain. It was a day of solemnity.
As the centuries passed and the Pagans were converted to the Christian religion, some of the Pagan observances were either changed or replaced by another. In the 7th century, Pope Boniface IV introduced All Saints Day to replace the Festival of the Dead, still observed on May 13th. Later, Pope Gregory III changed the date to November 1st, which also signified the end of the harvest season.
Samhain was translated into All Hallows Day and, since it was a solemn occasion, they celebrated the end of the harvest on All Hallows Eve, which eventually became Hallow E'en, or the night before All Hallows Day. Also known as All Hallowmas, All Hallowtide or All Saints Day, Roman Catholics, Episcopalians and Lutherans observed All Hallows Day to honor all Saints in heaven. It was one of the most significant observances of the church year and Catholics were obliged to attend mass.
This is not meant to be taken as a story about Halloween. All Hallows Day was the 'olde tyme' translation of Samhain which became All Holy Day, then Holy Day, then Holiday. Many of the Saints have their own holiday, observed by the Catholic church. All Saints Day was held in celebration of those Saints without a special day of their own. Over the centuries, many types of celebrations were known as holidays and they were not only for religious observances.
Now that we are living in the modern world and our employers offer several holidays as part of their company's 'perks', we can thank the Irish for starting it all.
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