Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Vocabulary: Holidays and Vacations

August 2nd is a holiday in Costa Rica, so today I thought I'd mention a few good vocabulary words related to holidays.

First of all, today is a holiday, which means that it's a special day for some reason. It's also a holy day; "holy" is similar to "sacred," and it can be used to describe things related to religion. An example of a holy day is Easter (click here or here for more information). Some holidays aren't necessarily holy days, and some holy days aren't necessarily holidays. For example, many countries have bank holidays and national holidays such as Independence Day or Mother's Day, which aren't connected to the church. 

Today's holiday is a Saint's Day connected to the Virgin of Los Angeles. In many Catholic countries, there's basically a saint for every day of the year. The reason today is special in Costa Rica is because the Virgin of Los Angeles is the patron saint of Costa Rica. Many people go to the city of Cartago to visit the basilica (also called a cathedral or even simply a church) to see a statue of the saint. Those people are sometimes called pilgrims, and the event or their journey can be called a pilgrimage.

Sometimes English learners get confused about the differences between holiday and vacation. In American English, the word "holiday" is generally used to indicate a day when there's no school or work. "Vacation" can be used to indicate a trip (when you travel somewhere for business or tourism) or you can also say "vacation" to indicate when there's a longer period of time when schools are closed. For example, in the U.S.A. most schools have a summer vacation or a summer break, as well as a winter vacation/break and a spring break/vacation. As you can see, "break" can also mean "vacation" sometimes.

British English is a little bit different with some of this vocabulary. For example, Americans might go on vacation, but British people might go on holiday. Also, notice that in American English, "vacation" and "holiday" are almost always in the singular form; only say "vacations" if you are talking about more than one vacation.

That's probably enough vocabulary for today but before we go, let's take a look at a dialogue using some of these terms:

(The phone rings--John answers)
John: Hello? This is John.

Ana: Hi John! This is Ana. How are you doing?

John: Ana, hi! I'm great, thanks. How are you?

Ana: I'm fine. Hey, are you doing anything special today?

John: No, why?

Ana: Well, today's a holiday! It's the Saint's Day for the Virgin of Los Angeles!

John: Oh, you're right! I'm not from Costa Rica, so I forgot about that. Are you doing anything special?

Ana: Probably not. My sister and brother are making a pilgrimage to Cartago to visit the church. They're walking 10 hours to get to the basilica, but since I broke my foot on my last vacation, I can't walk that far.

John: You broke your foot?! That's terrible!

Ana: I guess I didn't tell you. Yes, last month we had a break from school, so I went with some friends to the beach. It was a great vacation, but on the last day I tripped and broke my foot while I was leaving the hotel!

John: Haha! I'm sorry to hear about your foot, but that's a little funny!

Ana: Actually, you're right. It was kind of stupid, but also a little funny. At least the rest of the trip was great. Hey, I've got to go now, but do you want to come over later for coffee?

John: Sure, that sounds great! Should I stop by your house at 3?

Ana: Excellent! I'll see you then. Bye!

So, that's all for now. If you have any comments, questions, corrections, or want to share more vocabulary, please leave a comment or contact me. Thanks for reading-- if you're in Costa Rica, have a great holiday, and if you're not, have a great day!


  1. :) great! thanks for the vocabulary! att: Andrea (speak plus 6)

  2. Hi Andrea!

    You're very welcome, and thanks for the comment! If you can think of any other topics that you'd like to see in the blog, please tell me. Take care!


  3. Hello Ryan, thanks for sharing the link. This vocabulary is usefull. Now I got the diference between holyday and holy day.

    Best Regards,

  4. Jose,

    Good to hear--thanks for the comment!



Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment! If you have a specific comment about this post, please tell me. If you have a general question about the site or a common error suggestion, you can also use the "Contact" link at the top of the page.

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.