Until the middle of the 1800s, the word “vacation” was used in this country in the same was as it was used by English people. This meant that premises, such as schools and offices, were vacated for a period of time. In those days, only the privileged few could have a vacation. However, it quickly evolved into something more middle class and people started to enjoy them in order to further their own lives and to simply have pleasure.
Earnest Impulses at the Heart of the Vacation
The very first vacations, at the start of the 19th century, were only for the very rich. In many cases, they took vacations in order to improve their health. This had nothing to do with leisure time, as people didn’t have any. The working week was six days long, and the seventh day would be spent in church.
However, things changed when doctors started to proclaim vacationing was healthy. As a result, people started to go to the seaside, where “spas” were erected for people to enjoy the fresh air. When that happened, even the most puritan ministers started to suggest that vacationing was not actually idleness and a sin.
Additionally, the railroad started to materialize, which meant people were able to get to the shore. This meant further infrastructure was developed, including the construction of hotels. At that point, the concept of vacation for relaxation started to take hold.
The Role of the Church
The church was pivotal in the development of vacations, particularly the Methodist Church. Many people do not realize when they go on vacation, particularly to areas such as the Delaware shore or Martha’s Vineyard, that they are actually visiting a religious institution. These were first started as camp grounds, but quickly became full resorts. This is mainly due to the fact that Methodists in particular had money to spend, because they were told to work and stay sober during all other days of the year.
Religious resorts ensured that people could let their hair down, without being put in a position where they could give in to temptation and become idle or drunk. The resorts of those times did not allow drinking, gambling or smoking. People weren’t even allowed to bathe on Sundays. Additionally, there were no sexual dangers in these religious resorts.
Love Hate Relationship
Interestingly, in this country, we still have a love hate relationship with work. Europeans often joke that they take vacations and holidays so that they can get away from work, whereas Americans go on vacations and holidays solely so that they can return to work. To this day, although there are plenty of us who let our hair down and engage in behavior that no church would approve of, most of us are still reasonably contrite. This is also why organized tours, such asthose offered by Tauck Tours, are so popular in our country. They allow us to enjoy a vacation, but in a way that God himself would approve of.