Where Do Our Holiday Words Come From?

December 7, 2017


This time of year "Happy Holidays" is common greeting in United States. But, where and when did the word come from. The word holiday came from an Old English word that was first recorded in 950 AD, as hāligdæg (hālig for "holy" and dæg for "day"). The first recorded spelling as holiday was in 1460 AD. Around the Middle English period, it took on a new meaning as "a day when commoners were exempt from labor". In celebration, people often feasted on a flatfish called butte. Today's halibut got its name from hali or holy and butte or flatfish.

Dutch ancestors are credited with the first use of the word Sinterklaas, or Saint Nicholas, who was depicted wearing a bishop's robe until American artists created Santa's popular red and white Christmas garment in the 19th century. In Dutch culture, Santa Claus is a different person than Father Christmas who brought good cheer but did not bring the now traditional Christmas presents. Some linguists point out that origin could also have had pre-Christian roots dating back to the Norse god Odin.

Although the celebration of Christmas and the birth of Christ have become somewhat synonymous over time, most biblical scholars believe that there was no way Jesus would have been born anywhere close to December 25th. Most certainly the holy days that God commands in the Christian bible and those kept by Jesus and his apostles are almost universally ignored in our modern society. A fact that could explain why the celebration of Christmas is nowhere to be found in the Christian bible.

Hanukkah or Chanukah, which is one of the most important holidays of Judaism, was included in Jewish texts until 70 AD and mentioned in the books of First and Second Maccabees. The name of the eight-day holiday came from the Hebrew word for consecration or inauguration. It was originally coined to describe the re-dedication of the Second Temple of Jerusalem and the lighting of the menorah, which is also known as the Festival of Lights. The holiday begins on the 25th day of the month of Kislev, which may fall anytime from late November to late December. 

Happy Holidays to all from the staff at ProLingo.

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