August is the time of year when many people anticipate taking a holiday. It’s the time when school children have their extended summer break and families are free to travel away from home and spend some time enjoying new places and fresh experiences.
The origin of the word ‘holiday’ comes from the time when breaks from the daily routine were tied to the church calendar, so Easter, Pentecost and Christmas were particular times when most people had one or two days off to have a rest and remember events in the past that were fundamental to their Christian beliefs. So ‘holiday’ in this context comes from the idea of a ‘Holy Day’.
The idea of ‘Holy Days’ has a long history. In the Bible, the nation of Israel were instructed by God to hold a number of ‘Feast Days’ at special times in their yearly calendar. While these ‘days off’ would have been welcome breaks for the working people, they also had a special significance in teaching the people about the way of salvation being offered to them by God.
A few examples illustrate this:
- The first ‘Feast’ of the year was ‘Passover’, held on the 14th day of the 1st month of the Jewish calendar (the Christian ‘Easter’ is synchronised with this, which is why it moves about each year). This feast commemorates the rescue of the nation from slavery in Egypt and the start of their journey to the ‘Promised Land’. A lamb died as a sacrifice to deliver them from slavery, and in the New Testament, Jesus died at Passover to release us from slavery to sin.
- The sixth ‘Feast’ was the ‘Day of Atonement’ (Yom Kippur in Hebrew). This was a day when special rituals were performed to symbolise the release of the nation and the people from their past sins. But it also looks forward, in the Christian context, to the day when Jesus will return to finally remove all sin.
- And the seventh ‘Feast’ was that of ‘Tabernacles’, when the Jews built little shelters outside their homes to lived outside together, worshipping God. This looks forward to the time when God’s Kingdom will be established on the earth and all will live together in harmony and worship God their creator.
Thus, each year, as they celebrated their feasts, the Jews were reminded that God has a plan for mankind and that there is a great hope to look forward to for those who are faithful to Him, when the troubles of this life will be replaced with the peace and harmony of life in God’s Kingdom.
For more information about the Jewish feasts and their Christian context, see a video on the subject at: