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Holiday vs. Christmas: What's the Difference?

Edited by Aimie Carlson || By Janet White || Updated on October 3, 2023
"Holiday" refers to a day of celebration or relaxation that can be religious or secular, while "Christmas" is a specific holiday celebrated on December 25th to commemorate the birth of Jesus Christ.

Key Differences

"Holiday" is a general term that refers to a day set aside for celebration or relaxation, either due to religious, national, or cultural reasons. "Christmas," on the other hand, is a specific holiday celebrated primarily by Christians to commemorate the birth of Jesus Christ on December 25th.
In terms of grammar, both "holiday" and "Christmas" function primarily as nouns. While "holiday" can be pluralized as "holidays," indicating multiple days of celebration, "Christmas" is typically used in its singular form, although it can be possessive as in "Christmas's traditions."
"Holiday" can represent a wide range of occasions, from religious holidays like Easter and Hanukkah to secular holidays like New Year's Day and Independence Day. "Christmas" is narrower in scope, specifically referring to the Christian celebration, which may also have secular aspects like gift-giving and decoration.
"Holiday" can also serve as an adjective, such as in "holiday season" or "holiday sale." "Christmas" similarly functions adjectivally in compounds like "Christmas tree" or "Christmas carol," signifying things or activities specific to this holiday.
In summary, while "holiday" is a more general term used to describe various types of celebratory or restful days, "Christmas" is a specific holiday celebrated by Christians, but widely recognized and often secularized.

Comparison Chart

Grammatical Role

Primarily a noun, can be an adjective
Primarily a noun, can be an adjective


General term for various occasions
Specific to Christian tradition

Religious Affiliation

Can be religious or secular
Primarily religious, but often secularized


Can be pluralized (holidays)
Usually singular

Cultural Scope

Global, varies by culture
Widely celebrated, origin in Christianity

Holiday and Christmas Definitions


A day commemorating a special event.
Independence Day is a national holiday.


December 25th.
Christmas is on December 25th this year.


A day of celebration or relaxation.
We had a barbecue on the holiday.


Christian holiday celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ.
We attend church on Christmas.


A day exempt from work.
Many people get holidays off from work.


A season of merriment and good cheer.
The Christmas season is full of joy.


A period of leisure and recreation.
I'm taking a holiday next month.


A holiday with popular traditions like decorating a tree.
We decorate the Christmas tree together.


A day free from work that one may spend at leisure, especially a day on which custom or the law dictates a halting of general business activity to commemorate or celebrate a particular event.


A festival involving gift-giving and feasting.
We exchange gifts on Christmas morning.


A religious feast day; a holy day.


A Christian feast commemorating the birth of Jesus.


Chiefly British A vacation. Often used in the phrase on holiday.


December 25, the day on which this feast is observed as a public holiday in many countries.


To pass a holiday or vacation.




A day on which a festival, religious event, or national celebration is traditionally observed.
Today is a Wiccan holiday!


An annual church festival (December 25) and in some States a legal holiday, in memory of the birth of Christ, often celebrated by a particular church service, and also by special gifts, greetings, and hospitality.


A day declared free from work by the state or government.


Period extending from Dec. 24 to Jan. 6


A period of one or more days taken off work for leisure and often travel; often plural.


A Christian holiday celebrating the birth of Christ; a quarter day in England, Wales, and Ireland


A period during which pupils do not attend their school; often plural; rarely used for students at university (usually: vacation).
I want to take a French course this summer holiday.


Spend Christmas;
We were christmassing in New York


(finance) A period during which, by agreement, the usual payments are not made.
A mortgage payment holiday


A gap in coverage, e.g. of paint on a surface, or sonar imagery.


(intransitive) To take a period of time away from work or study.


To spend a period of time in recreational travel.


A consecrated day; religious anniversary; a day set apart in honor of some person, or in commemoration of some event. See Holyday.


A day of exemption from labor; a day of amusement and gayety; a festival day.
And young and old come forth to playOn a sunshine holiday.


A day fixed by law for suspension of business; a legal holiday.


Of or pertaining to a festival; cheerful; joyous; gay.


Occurring rarely; adapted for a special occasion.
Courage is but a holiday kind of virtue, to be seldom exercised.


Leisure time away from work devoted to rest or pleasure;
We get two weeks of vacation every summer
We took a short holiday in Puerto Rico


A day on which work is suspended by law or custom;
No mail is delivered on federal holidays
It's a good thing that New Year's was a holiday because everyone had a hangover


Spend or take a vacation


A religious feast day.
Easter is an important Christian holiday.


Can "holiday" be an adjective?

Yes, "holiday" can function as an adjective, as in "holiday season."

What does "holiday" generally mean?

"Holiday" refers to a day set aside for celebration or relaxation.

What is "Christmas" specifically?

"Christmas" is a Christian holiday celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ.

Can "holiday" be pluralized?

Yes, "holiday" can be pluralized as "holidays."

Can "holiday" be religious?

Yes, a holiday can be religious, such as Easter or Hanukkah.

Can "Christmas" be an adjective?

Yes, "Christmas" can function as an adjective, as in "Christmas tree."

Is "Christmas" a religious holiday?

Yes, Christmas is primarily a religious holiday, though often secularized.

Does "Christmas" have secular aspects?

Yes, Christmas often involves secular practices like gift-giving.

Do all cultures celebrate holidays?

Yes, the concept of holidays exists in various cultures globally.

Is Christmas celebrated globally?

Christmas is widely celebrated, though its significance varies by region.

Can "holiday" refer to a national celebration?

Yes, "holiday" can refer to a day commemorating a special national event, like Independence Day.

Can "holiday" refer to a period of leisure?

Yes, "holiday" can also mean a period of leisure and recreation.

Is "Christmas" usually pluralized?

No, "Christmas" is usually used in its singular form.

Is a "holiday" always a day off work?

Not always, but many holidays are days exempt from work.

Is Christmas a public holiday in the U.S.?

Yes, Christmas is a federal holiday in the U.S.
About Author
Written by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.
Edited by
Aimie Carlson
Aimie Carlson, holding a master's degree in English literature, is a fervent English language enthusiast. She lends her writing talents to Difference Wiki, a prominent website that specializes in comparisons, offering readers insightful analyses that both captivate and inform.

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