Photo by Carey Nieuwhof

Chances are you’ve either got a summer vacation (or staycation) planned right now. For many of us, it’s one of the highlights of summer.

The two words we most often use to describe this annual break are ‘vacation’ and ‘holiday’. Usually, we use the two terms interchangeably. But today, I want to explore how those two words used to mean something quite different. I think it can help us in our parenting.

The word ‘vacation’ is a middle English word, and about 600 years ago it literally meant ‘freedom from.’ It’s also related to ‘vacate,’ which means to leave empty or to go away.

And often that’s what our vacation is: an attempt to vacate or escape life for a week or two. Sometimes, we’ll even say a vacation was great because we didn’t think about anything significant or meaningful…we just got away and had fun.

Contrast that with holiday. In middle English, ‘holiday’ originally meant “Holy day.’ It was a day set apart to remember and celebrate a significant religious milestone. Throughout the Old Testament, the life of God’s people was peppered with holidays throughout the year designed to suspend everyday activities so that people would remember the great things God had done for them.

So what’s the point of all this?

Well, as a parent, there are times you need a vacation. But increasingly, I find myself in need of holidays.

I need to do more than vacate. I need to reflect, pray, remember, restore, connect and build my relationship with God. I use time away to think through my life, my marriage, my character, my parenting, my relationships, my future. On the times I’ve done that, I feel like I bring more meaning back to my life and sometimes even a better self back to my life.

The fun part is that you can take a holiday while on a vacation. It’s more about your state of mind and the time you’ve set aside for yourself. To carve some holiday time out of a vacation:

Sit by the beach before the kids get up and watch the sunrise.
Set aside some quiet time in a day and bring your Bible and a pen.
Go for a hike.
Date your spouse…go out for dinner and talk about life, faith and relationships (not soccer practice).
Take a night for yourself.

Taking a holiday is as much about your state of mind as it is about anything else. What’s the best ‘holiday’ you’ve ever taken?