Vacation – what a sweet word! Though with vacations often is the same as with freedom – we dream of and look forward to getting there, but once we have it – are either not certain how to make the best out of it or go through the stress of planning the ultimate experience. And that does not come as a surprise, as both words have a lot in common and most of us associate vacation with exactly freedom. But we had all been there – the months’ long planning of a vacation, months of research and offers’ collecting for the sake of a week’s vacation. And, logically, often are left dissatisfied, as the reality have not fully met our long gathered expectations or even because the planning drained us way too much and the stress to cover all we pinned on our vacation bucket list did not leave us enough time to effectively relax and enjoy the gulp of freedom from our typical daily occupations.
The word vacation originates from the Latin vacationem, which incorporates the meaning of leisure, freedom, exemption, been free from duty. At the beginning of 14th century, the term was adopted in Old French with the spelling of vacacion and meaning of vacancy, vacant position. It derived from the fact that, in the past, upper-class families would move to a summer house for part of the year, leaving their usual family home vacant. Only half a century later, the word made its way into the English language as well. With the first written reference coming from one of the best known Geoffrey Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales – The Wife of Bath’s Tale (1386) where a character is described diving into reading books “When he had leisure and vacation from other worldly occupation.”
In the United Kingdom, vacation once specifically referred to the long formal suspension of activity by the law courts and, later, universities and schools —a custom introduced by William the Conqueror from Normandy where it facilitated the grape harvest.
1456, Reginald Pecock, The Book of Faith: “How much labour is made in Court in London, by times of vacation, about the reading of the King’s statutes”
Sir John Fortescue, Governance of England, 1460: “How many hours of the day this counsel shall sit, when they shall have any vacation. “
The concept of taking a vacation is a fairly recent invention. As a term to describe a well planned journey usually for the purpose of recreation or tourism, vacation first appeared on the vocabulary radar in 1878, in a collection of anonymously published poems A Masque of Poets. The long piece that concluded the book and contained today’s word of the day was Guy Vermont by John Townsend Trowbridge: “At Saratoga, where you meet all grades of well-dressed people spending short vacations. “
Nowadays, the term vacation is still the one common in the American English and for the British – we have our holiday.