The History of the Holiday: where did holidays come from?

We all enjoy a holiday. But where did holidays come from? When did they first begin? Which people first decided to leave their hometowns for long periods of time to explore and enjoy the wider world?

Let’s dive into the history of the holiday to find out.

Leading the way: The Romans

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the Romans were the first civilisation to partake in holidays. The wealthy would take it to new levels, some taking holidays that lasted two whole years.

Part of the reason the Romans were able to begin travelling was because they enjoyed prolonged periods of peace and prosperity - providing ample leisure time for the average wealthy citizen.

This was buttressed by the army’s protection of travellers and the ever-expanding stretches of the empire. It was not long before there were established inns, restaurants and tour guides across the tourist route. Everything a wandering traveller could need to enjoy their trip.

The wandering Romans even had the first travel guidebooks. Pausanias’ Description of Greece is a classic of it’s kind - setting the path for future travel guides - with detailed descriptions of everything from Greece’s architecture to its geography.

Conquests and pilgrimages

After the fall of the Romans, the first phase of holidaying was over. Travel through the dark ages and medieval period was due either to conquest or pilgrimage.

Pilgrims were the first tourists to Britain. Whether it was overseas to Santiago de Compostela or Jerusalem, or in Britain to places like Canterbury or Lindisfarne, a pilgrimage offered religious folk the chance to experience something new. Just like tourists today, medieval pilgrims liked to bring home souvenirs, in the form of pilgrim badges. Some might even splash on a holy relic.

Access for every level of society

Fast forward to the 1800s, and it was the advent of the railways that saw the holiday spread to every sector of society; rich and poor. Trains made travel cheaper and faster, thus more accessible, for the majority of the population.

In July 1841, Thomas Cook organised the first ever British package holiday, arranging for a railway company to take 570 temperance campaigners from Leicester to Loughborough for a shilling a head. A sign of times to come.

To the moon

Nowadays, travel is accessible to almost everyone, thanks to budget airlines and the reach of the internet. And the future? Who knows. Maybe we’ll all be taking month-long breaks             to the moon and weekend trips to the stars.

Published date: 21/11/2018