Why Do We Have Summer Vacation?
Written by Malki Ehrlich on July 30, 2017
The concept of summer vacation has always been a debated topic around the world, but is particularly contentious in the United States with older generations questioning the rationale behind such an ‘unnecessary’ break. It’s safe to say however, that summer vacation, just like daylight savings time, is going to be around for a very long time.
So what is summer vacation?
Summer vacation, which can be either referred to as summer holiday or summer break is a school holiday that occurs in the summer both in the United States and in other countries around the world. Summer break is usually the longest break in the school year lasting usually for a period of 6 to 14 weeks, depending on the country.
Origin of summer vacation
There have been a lot of myths and oral tradition concerning the origin of summer vacation. Some of these myths contend that summer vacation or summer holiday originated as a result of the school calendar originating from the Agrarian family calendar. Since during the early settlement of the United States, the nation was made up primarily of farmers. According to this myth, it was believed that school kids took a break during summer to help their parents in their fields and farms. As exciting this story may sound, it is incorrect and had nothing to do with kids sweating off labor hours in the farm all in the name of tilling the soil. Before the civil war, school kids never took a break from school during summer. Looking back at the history of the American summer breaks we found that in the year 1842, school kids in the city of Detroit had an academic year that ran for 260 days.
The origin of summer vacation in the US had a lot to do with the rising middle and upper class in American society. During the summer period, most wealthy and affluent families took all excuses to escape from the hot and harsh summer weather with their kids to the cool countryside. This affected the school attendance and learning progress since school attendance wasn’t mandatory at that time. As this continued, legislators and labor union advocates argued for counterbalancing a more regulated summer holiday/break for school kids. They were all agreed that the idea of learning year-round was not ideal for kids since the brain is a muscle which needed to be rested.
As time went by, summer holiday became a norm and fully instituted with various districts cutting out about 40- 60 days off the school year calendar to accommodate this newly conceived summer break. Gradually, summer holidays became a sort of business for business folks who took advantage of this summer break to turn it into a business industry and venture.
Why is it called vacation in the USA and holiday in the UK?
English is a language that originated from the West Germanic dialect. The word holiday was taken from the German language term for the haligdæg – holy day; back in that time, the only leisure time possible was on a Holy Day, so it makes sense why the British use the word holiday.
In the UK “going on holiday” means taking time off, what Americans call “going on vacation”. An actual national/religious holiday is not required.
To an American, holiday means a set time or day; days off that the administration team has seen fit to give (e.g. Christmas or New Year’s Day ). It’s a government dictated holiday away from work.
- Brit: Jenny and I are going away on a holiday.
- American: Jenny and I are going away for the holidays.
- Brit: We might go on a holiday.
- American: We might go on a vacation.
- Brit: I’m going on holiday to Spain during the Christmas holidays.
- American: I’m going on a vacation to Spain during Christmas holidays.
Nowadays summer vacation is a time for families to experience a time of fun, get to visit interesting tourist attractions within and outside their countries. So no matter what word you use to represent your time off, Ginger wishes you and your family enjoyable and memorable one!