It’s July, and the Summer Holidays are fast approaching. It’s a moment of great transition. It almost seems like it’s half-way through the year, but, in fact, by the end of the Summer holidays it will be two-thirds of the way through the year.
I left school at the age of 17, and did not have a child in school until I was nearly 40, and yet, try as I might, I still cannot get the School Year out of my head. September is always a beginning, and July and August are part of the process of transition. Maybe it’s just me, but I suspect it’s not. If we look at the reasons why school holidays were timetabled for July and August, we might find the reason for its imprinting itself on our consciousness.
The Summer Holidays were programmed to make as many people available, including children, for work at harvest time. In fact, it’s not a holiday at all, really. For a culture that has only recently urbanised, the ploughing, cultivating, sowing of seeds, the green shoots gradually transitioning to a golden brown is still a process with a beginning and an end that culminates during the Summer months.
I think the school holidays mark and reinforce a transition that has always been there, and that is why they will not leave our consciousness, even though we may have long since left school behind.
Then there is the whole idea of ‘holiday’ itself: What is it? Nothing but Holy day. There are a number of very important Holy days during the Summer Holidays and their immediate environs: The birth of John the Baptist marks mid-summer, followed very closely by the Feasts of St. Peter and St. Paul; St. Mary Magdalene; St. James, St. Thomas and the Transfiguration of our Lord and the Assumption of the blessed Virgin Mary in August, all ending at Michaelmas at the end of September.
Holidays - Holy Days: Time set apart, to be away from the usual activities; A time to do something different. Terry Jones, from Monty Python, worked out that the average worker in Mediaeval Europe had far more time off than workers in our contemporary society. The whole year was scattered with Holy Days, and at least one Holy Day every week, Sunday. On these days only necessary work was required. Animals, of course, and people will always need looking after. Jesus said that the Sabbath (the weekly Holy Day) was made for humankind. Not for humankind to observe legalistically, but as a given time for rest, re-creation and celebration. Have we lost something?
Happy holidays (as they say in America).
Vicar’s thoughts for July 2016