Are you on holiday or on vacation?

26 March 2017
door Regina Coeli

What a strange question! If I’m on holiday then I’m also on vacation. They mean the same after all. But as a result of the economic crisis, I have to combine ‘giorni feriali’ (work holidays) with ‘giorni festivi’ (religious holidays) so that I have at least 15* consecutive ‘giorni di festa’ (days off) this year. I’ll also make use of the ‘ponte’** option, but that’s about it. Unfortunately I don’t have any more ‘vacanze’ (holiday)…

Difference between feriale, ferie en festivo

In Italian, the words ‘feriale’, ‘ferie’ and ‘festivo’ can easily cause confusion, but we will try to make everything clear in the following explanation.
In Roman times, ‘giorni feriali’ were the days on which people practiced religion and dealt with personal issues. They were days on which no work was done; religious holidays, actually. Later, in the liturgy of the Roman Catholic church, the term ‘giorni feriali’ was used for all the days on which saints were honoured; not to be confused with ‘domenica’ (Sunday), the dies Domini (Day of God) which is now the only true ‘giorno festivo’ religious (holi)day of the week.

Vacanza

Consequently, ‘ferie’ has come to mean the same as ‘festa’ (religious feast day) and ‘vacanza’ (vacation). This is certainly interesting but also difficult to remember. So, here’s a word of advice: just use the word ‘vacanza’ that comes from the verb ‘vacare’ which literally means ‘to be empty’. English words can also help you to remember; think of the words ‘vacuum’ (‘sottovuoto’ in Italian) and ‘vacancy’ (‘posto vacante’ in Italian), and, of course, ‘vacation’ which sounds very similar to ‘vacanza’.

*15 and not 14, because in Italian the first day and the last day of the holiday are counted!
**ponte (bridge) = short holiday that is taken in between two or more religious holidays.
For example: Ascension Day is always on a Thursday. The ‘ponte’ would be the Friday following Ascension Day.


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