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Medieval Peasants Had More Vacation Time than Many of Us

Life for a medieval peasant was no picnic. His life was shadowed by fear of famine, disease, and bursts of warfare. But you might envy him for one thing: his vacation time. The Church often enforced mandatory holidays for weddings, wakes, and births. And then when wandering jugglers or sporting events came to town, peasants got more time off for quaffing beer and celebrating. In fact, economist Juliet Shor found that during periods of particularly high wages, such as 14th century England, peasants might get half the year off. Shor writes, "The tempo of life was slow, even leisurely; the pace of work relaxed. Our ancestors may not have been rich, but they had an abundance of leisure."

In contrast, life in 21st century America doesn't look near as relaxed or leisurely. The United States is the only advanced country with no national vacation policy whatsoever. Many American workers must keep on working through public holidays, and vacation days often go unused. On average, U.S. workers end up with roughly 16 paid holiday and vacation days in a year, but that number wouldn't meet the legal minimum in most other developed countries around the world.

Possible Preaching Angles: This illustration shows our need to find balance, celebrate the Sabbath, and enjoy time with God and others—perhaps especially during holiday weekends, like Thanksgiving Day.

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