celebration, feast, holiday

Discussion in 'English Only' started by Zsuzsu, Jun 1, 2009.

  1. Zsuzsu Senior Member

    Budapest, Hungary
    Hi there,

    I am trying to help somebody prepare for her school-leaving examination in English. One of her oral exam topics (titles given only in Hungarian) can be translated something like "Celebrations, family celebrations". I am not sure, though, if all the events I can think of can be referred to as celebrations - shouldn't they be called feasts or holidays?
    This is my categorization:

    - birthday, name day, wedding anniversary, etc: family celebration
    - Christmas, Easter, New Year: feast
    - Advent, Lent: no idea
    - 1st of May (Work's Day), Women's Day, Children's Day, Mother's Day: celebration/holiday?
    - 15th of March (the memorial day of the Hungarian Revolution of 1848-49), 6th of October (the same): celebration/holiday?
    - 20th of August (St Stephen's Day - the first king of Hungary): feast?

    What do you think of the above? How would you differentiate between these different occasions? And what do you call the days on which nobody works in Hungary, like: 15th of March, 20th of August? Can they be national holidays?

    Thanks in advance!
  2. alaethea Senior Member

    India-Tamil & English
    No work -> Holiday.
    The whole nation doesn't work-> National holiday. :D
  3. Dimcl Senior Member

    British Columbia, Canada
    Canadian English
    In Canada and the U.S., the term "feast" would be rarely, if ever used. It might be used in certain ethnic communities but to categorize Christmas or New Years as "feasts" would be very odd-sounding. Some people call Christmas and Easter, "religious holidays".

    In Canada, we don't really have a "name" for such days as "Mother's Day" or "Father's Day". They're not holidays so we just call them by their names.

    Yes, birthdays, etc. would be "family celebrations".

    Contrary to alathea's definition, in Canada, we don't call national holidays "national holidays". They may well be a day off work for most people in the country but we don't refer to a "national holiday". We call them "statutory holidays".

    Given that we don't know where your friend is or what form of English you're referring to (BE/AE?), it's difficult to give advice. These things vary from country to country.

    And, finally, are not all of the days you've mentioned celebrations of some form or another? Why do you want to change that?
  4. Zsuzsu Senior Member

    Budapest, Hungary
    Thank you both!
    I and my friend are trying to find the British terms for these celebrations, but personally, I am also interested in American and Canadian variations. I would be happy to call all these days celebrations but was not sure I can use this term with all of them - when I looked them up in Wikipedia, for example, I found an article (movable feasts) in which religious celebrations are called feasts...:confused:
  5. Sköll Senior Member

    English, US
    I agree. I would not classify Christmas and New Year as feasts either, but Christmas is a Christian feast by definition, is it not?

    I have no problem saying "Christmas feast", "New Year's feast" or "festive season".
  6. Nunty

    Nunty Modified

    Hebrew-US English (bilingual)
    This is a question of regionalisms, register and context. :eek:

    In American English (AE) secular contexts, we don't usually say "feast", although the word may be used for certain religious... erm... feasts. Administrative documents in AE that describe days on which people don't have to work or go to school refer to "holidays".

    Special days of civic importance may be national, state or municipal "holidays".

    In AE "celebration" refers to the ritual or practices of a particular holiday or to a party held in honor of that day.

    I am not familiar with most religious jargon, but I do know that when speaking English in AE religious Jews speak of the "Passover feast", for example, and Catholics talk about certain "feast days".

    Normally in AE a festive period is referred to as a "season".

    I hope you weren't looking for a simple, clear cut answer!
  7. manon33 Senior Member

    English - England (Yorkshire)
    Holidays which are religious in origin are often called festivals, e.g. Christmas, Easter, Eid.

    Weekdays when most people don't have to go to work (whatever their historical origin) are called Bank Holidays in the U.K.
  8. GreenWhiteBlue

    GreenWhiteBlue Senior Member

    The City of New York
    USA - English
    You may refer to these days as "holidays and observances".
  9. Zsuzsu Senior Member

    Budapest, Hungary
    To be honest, Nunty, this has turned out to be much more complicated than I had thought before...:)
    Thanks for all the answers, everybody!
  10. wolfbm1

    wolfbm1 Senior Member

    Today in Poland we celebrate the National Independence Day. In 1918 Poland regained its independence after 123 years of partitions done by Russia, Prussia and Austria.
    I think I can describe it as a national holiday, because the whole nation celebrates it by attending gatherings and parades by the city hall and attending an evening mass in church. Many houses display Polish flags.
    I think I can also describe it as a public holiday, because shops, banks, government offices and schools are closed. It is a day off work or a non-working day.
    It is not a feast day because it is not a religious holiday.

    Christmas is a religious holiday and December 25 is a feast day in Poland.

    Epiphany (January 6) is a national holiday and a feast day in Poland. It is a religious feast because a lot of people go to church and attend a procession with the three wise men. It is a public holiday because government offices, shops and schools are closed.

    Valentine's Day or Walentynki (February 14) is not a national or public holiday because shops, schools and government offices are open. It is a sort of a feast day or an observance day because people celebrate it by giving each other nice presents, heart-shaped chocolate boxes, cards and flowers. The same goes for Fater's Day and Mother's Day.

    Did I get it right?
    Last edited: Nov 11, 2016
  11. Edinburgher Senior Member

    German/English bilingual
    The use of the term "feast" in everyday language tends to be limited to grandiose meals, and is not generally used to refer to feast days, except for historical terms like "the feast of Stephen" (and I'm not sure I've heard that used other than in the song "Good King Wenceslas" or in a church context).
  12. wolfbm1

    wolfbm1 Senior Member

    Another example is the film Babette's Feast, where a French refugee, Babette prepares a sumptous meal to help her two Dutch religious saviours commemorate the 100th anniversary of their father's birth.
    So, in English, the word feast is connected with a huge meal and a religious occasion or event.
  13. natkretep

    natkretep Moderato con anima (English Only)

    English (Singapore/UK), basic Chinese
    Just be aware that holiday is used differently in AmE and BrE. A holiday means a non-working day (public holiday, bank holiday) in BrE, but I understand AmE speakers are happy to use 'holiday' for days when you don't get time off work.

    We can also consider festival which can be used for religious and secular celebrations, which can be holidays or non-holidays (in the BrE sense I mentioned above).

    For Advent or Lent (mentioned in the opening post), I would say season because they last many days (in fact weeks).
  14. wolfbm1

    wolfbm1 Senior Member

    Whether it is American or Polish, the Independence Day is a holiday, although there is not anything holy about it. It is a festive day because people decorate houses with flags and refrain from working, participate in solemn gatherings and go to church.
    When I see the word festival it brings to my mind such events as the music festival in Woodstock or the film festival in Cannes. I am not sure if I could say that Christmas is a festival. It is a Christian feast. People usually go to church and prepare sumptuous meals.
  15. natkretep

    natkretep Moderato con anima (English Only)

    English (Singapore/UK), basic Chinese
    I'm perfectly happy to say that Christmas is a Christian festival. Feast focuses on food. I would prefer to call Christmas a Christian feast day.
  16. Keith Bradford

    Keith Bradford Senior Member

    Brittany, NW France
    English (Midlands UK)
    You certainly could (and would) in Britain. Christmas and Easter are the two major religious festivals in the Christian churches.

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