AskDefine | Define observance

Dictionary Definition



1 the act of observing; taking a patient look [syn: observation, watching]
2 a formal event performed on a special occasion; "a ceremony commemorating Pearl Harbor" [syn: ceremony, ceremonial, ceremonial occasion]
3 the act of noticing or paying attention; "he escaped the notice of the police" [syn: notice, observation]
4 conformity with law or custom or practice etc. [syn: honoring] [ant: nonobservance]

User Contributed Dictionary




  1. The practice of complying with a law, custom, command or rule
  2. The custom of celebrating a holiday or similar occasion
  3. Observation or the act of watching
  4. A rule governing a religious order, especially in the Roman Catholic church

Extensive Definition

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 general leave of absence from a regular occupation for rest or recreation
  • A specific trip or journey for the purposes of recreation / tourism
  • Official or unofficial observances of religious/national/cultural/other significance, often accompanied by celebrations or festivities (public/religious holiday)
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 sombre nature. Vacation or holidays are often used as a time to spend with friends or family.
Longer breaks from a career or occupation also exist, such as a sabbatical, gap year or career break.



Holiday is a contraction of holy and day, holidays originally represented special religious days. This word has evolved in general usage to mean any special day of rest (as opposed to regular days of rest such as the weekend).


In the United Kingdom the word "vacation" referred specifically to the long summer break taken by the law courts (and later universities)—a custom introduced by William the Conqueror from Normandy where it was intended to facilitate the grape harvest. The French term is similar to the American English: "Les Vacances." The term derives from the fact that, in the past, upper-class families would literally move to a summer home for part of the year, leaving their usual family home vacant.

Regional meanings

As a trip

Vacation is a term used in English-speaking North America to describe a lengthy time away from work or school, a trip abroad, or simply a pleasure trip away from home, such as a trip to the beach that lasts several days or longer. In the rest of the English-speaking world the word holiday is used (e.g. "I'm going on holiday to Malta next week"). Americans, especially those of recent British or European descent, may also use the word "holiday." "Annual Leave" is another expression used in Commonwealth countries.
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.

As an observance

In all of the English-speaking world including North America, a holiday can refer to a day set aside by a nation or culture (in some cases, multiple nations and cultures) typically for celebration but sometimes for some other kind of special culture-wide (or national) observance or activity. A holiday can also be a special day on which school and/or offices are closed, such as Labor Day. By extension, (observance)-holiday, e.g. Labour Day holiday, refers to the rest period around the official observance.

Employment issues

Most countries around the world have labor laws mandating a certain number of 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. Neither the U.S. nor China requires that employees receive any vacation time at all. There are movements fighting for laws requiring more vacation time for American workers such as
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.

Types of holiday (observance)

Consecutive holidays

Consecutive holidays are a string of holidays taken together without working days in between. They tend to be considered a good chance to take short trips. In late 1990s, the Japanese government passed a law that increased the likelihood of consecutive holidays by moving holidays from fixed days to a relative position in a month, such as the second Monday. Well-known consecutive holidays include:

Religious holidays

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. There are also many well known Jewish holidays. The Bahá'í Faith observes holidays as defined by the Bahá'í calendar.

Northern Hemisphere winter holidays

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.

National holidays

Several sovereign nations and territories observe holidays based on events of significance to their history.

Secular holidays

Several secular holidays are observed, both internationally, and across multi-country regions, often in conjunction with organisations such as the United Nations. Many other days are marked to celebrate events or people, but are not strictly holidays as time off work is rarely given.

Unofficial holidays

These are holidays that are not traditionally marked on calendars. These holidays are celebrated by various groups and individuals. Some are designed to promote a cause, others recognize historical events not recognized officially, and others are "funny" holidays, generally intended as humorous distractions and excuses to share laughs among friends.


  • Holidays & Holy Days: Origins, Customs, and Insights on Celebrations Through the Year
  • Celebration: The Story of American Holidays
  • American Holidays: Exploring Traditions, Customs, and Backgrounds
observance in Tosk Albanian: Feiertage
observance in Arabic: عيد
observance in Azerbaijani: Bayram
observance in Bosnian: Praznik
observance in Bulgarian: Празник
observance in Czech: Svátek
observance in Danish: Helligdag
observance in German: Feiertag
observance in Modern Greek (1453-): Αργία
observance in Spanish: Día festivo
observance in Esperanto: Festaj kaj feriaj tagoj
observance in Faroese: Halgidagur
observance in French: Fête
observance in Irish: Lá saoire
observance in Korean: 공휴일
observance in Indonesian: Hari raya
observance in Italian: Festa
observance in Hebrew: חג
observance in Georgian: დღესასწაული
observance in Swahili (macrolanguage): Sikukuu
observance in Lithuanian: Šventė
observance in Malay (macrolanguage): Hari perayaan
observance in Dutch: Feest- en gedenkdagen
observance in Japanese: 祝日
observance in Norwegian: Helligdag
observance in Norwegian Nynorsk: Heilagdag
observance in Polish: Święto
observance in Portuguese: Feriado
observance in Russian: Праздник
observance in Albanian: Festa
observance in Simple English: Holiday
observance in Slovak: Sviatok
observance in Finnish: Loma
observance in Swedish: Helgdag
observance in Tagalog: Pista
observance in Volapük: Zeladel
observance in Walloon: Fiesse
observance in Samogitian: Švėntė
observance in Chinese: 假日

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

accommodation, accord, accordance, acquiescence, adaptation, adaption, adherence, adhering, adjustment, adoration, advertence, advertency, agreement, alertness, allegiance, anniversaries, assiduity, assiduousness, attention, attention span, attentiveness, awareness, baccalaureate service, bon ton, care, carrying out, celebrating, celebration, ceremonial, ceremony, churchgoing, cognizance, commemoration, commencement, completion, compliance, complying, concentration, conformance, conformation other-direction, conforming, conformity, congruity, consciousness, consideration, consistency, consuetude, convention, conventionality, convocation, correspondence, cultism, custodianship, custody, custom, devotedness, devotion, devoutness, diligence, discharge, dressing ship, duteousness, dutifulness, duty, eagle eye, ear, earnestness, effectuation, empty formality, enforcement, espial, espionage, established way, etiquette, examination, execution, exercise, exercises, faith, faithfulness, fanfare, fanfaronade, fashion, fealty, festivity, flexibility, flourish of trumpets, folkway, form, form of worship, formal, formality, formula, formulary, fulfillment, function, graduation, graduation exercises, guard, guardedness, guardianship, habit, harmony, heed, heedfulness, heeding, holiday, holy rite, homage, inaugural, inauguration, initiation, inspection, institution, intentiveness, intentness, invigilation, jubilee, keeping, line, liturgy, looking, lookout, love of God, loyalty, malleability, manner, manners, mark, marking the occasion, memorialization, memory, mind, mindfulness, mode of worship, monitoring, mores, mummery, mystery, note, notice, obedience, obediency, obeying, observation, observing, office, order of worship, ordinance, orthodoxy, ovation, peeled eye, performance, pietism, piety, piousness, pliancy, practice, praxis, prescribed form, prescription, proctoring, proper thing, prosecution, prudence, qui vive, recognition, reconcilement, reconciliation, regard, regardfulness, rejoicing, religion, religionism, religious ceremony, religious rites, religiousness, remark, remembrance, respect, respecting, revel, reverence, rite, rite de passage, rite of passage, ritual, ritual observance, rituality, sacrament, sacramental, salute, salvo, scrutiny, service, servility, servitium, sharp eye, social convention, solemn observance, solemnity, solemnization, spying, standard behavior, standard usage, standing custom, stewardship, strictness, submission, submissiveness, suit and service, suit service, surveillance, testimonial, testimonial banquet, testimonial dinner, theism, thought, time-honored practice, toast, tradition, traditionalism, transaction, tribute, triumph, uniformity, usage, use, veneration, viewing, vigil, vigilance, wariness, watch, watch and ward, watchful eye, watchfulness, watching, way, weather eye, what is done, willingness, witnessing, wont, wonting, worship, worshipfulness
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