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What Exactly Is the Holiday Season?

Image representing students learning what exactly is the holiday season.

You may have heard people, companies or advertisers talk about the “holiday season”. For example, “are you going home this holiday season?” or “Save money this holiday season with a discount card from our store!”

If so, you might be wondering exactly what “holiday season” means. Don’t people take vacations all year round? And aren’t there public holidays at different times during the year?

The answer to both these questions is yes, but “holiday season” is a North American term that refers to the period of time from Thanksgiving until the New Year. This covers many of the most important holidays in American culture, when most people in the USA and Canada are likely to travel back to their home town or take time off to spend time with their family.

In the UK and in other English speaking countries, you are more likely to hear people talk about the “festive season”, which covers the build up to Christmas until the start of the New Year, or the “Christmas holidays”, which is the week lasting from Christmas Eve to New Year’s Day. Many businesses in the UK close completely during this time and employees take the whole time off as holiday.

Okay, let’s take a look at which holidays take place during the “holiday season”.

Thanksgiving

This is a national holiday in the USA and Canada that takes place on the fourth Thursday of November each year. Traditionally, people would come together to give thanks for a good harvest and today, people still enjoy a big meal with their family and community. The main part of the meal is usually turkey, accompanied by dishes made from seasonal vegetables such as pumpkin.

Hanukah

Hanukah (also called the Festival of Lights) is an important Jewish holiday that lasts for eight days and nights. The exact start date changes each year, but it always falls in November or December. In the 2nd Century BC, the Jewish people fought back against the Seleucid Empire that had taken over much of the Middle East and made Judaism illegal. Hanukah is all about the moment that the Jewish fighters took back the Holy Temple in Jerusalem and were able to practise their religion again. Today, Jews all over the world celebrate the festival by lighting candles in a traditional eight-branch candle holder called a Menorah, eat oily foods like doughnuts and spend time with their families and communities.

Christmas

In Christianity, this is the day that Jesus Christ was born and it is the most popular Christian holiday in the Western world. In the Bible, wise men brought special gifts to the baby Jesus and traditionally, a figure called Father Christmas / Santa Claus / St. Nicholas (depending on which country you are in) is thought to bring presents to children around the world on Christmas Eve. Today, many people celebrate the festival by having a big meal with their family and giving presents to each other. This is celebrated by most people in Western countries, even if they are not Christian or religious.

New Year’s Eve

This is the last night of the old year and the beginning of the new one! Many people have big parties with friends or family, at home or at bars and clubs. Everyone stops to count down to the start of the new year and it traditionally to drink champagne and to kiss people around you at midnight. Many people also make New Year’s Resolutions, which are a list of things that they will try to do or stop doing in the coming year. For example, start going to the gym, or stop smoking.

Will you celebrate any of these holidays this year? How do they compare to festivals in your home country? Let us know in the comments section below!