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A day before memorial day I overheard 2 girls talking. One girl was saying goodbye and said, "Happy holiday". Is this correct? Is it okay to say "happy holiday" because we're just speaking of one day?

  • @Tristan Yes, this was on American Memorial Day. – khaleesi May 30 '13 at 16:55
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    @Tristan: It's a public holiday in the United States that falls on the final Monday in May of each year. This year it fell on 27th May. More information: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Memorial_Day – Matt May 30 '13 at 18:12
  • Memorial Day is not meant to be a happy holiday. – whiskeychief Aug 14 at 12:14
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In American English, "Happy Holidays!" is an idiomatic valediction before a holiday/vacation, often said to coworkers and friends:

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Note that this is usually only said when both participants are going on holiday, especially before public holidays (esp. major holidays such as Christmas and Thanksgiving).

In British English, "Happy Holidays!" would be understood, but is not idiomatic, and comes across as an Americanism:

enter image description here

British English speakers would more likely say something along the lines of:

Enjoy your holiday!

Have a great holiday!

Hope you have a nice break!

Note that holiday and day are distinct nouns and are only historically related. It is not the case that "holiday" implies a single day vacation and that "holidays" implies a multi-day vacation; you can absolutely "go on a two week holiday to Morocco" and say "Happy Holidays" to an American colleague who is only taking a single day's vacation over Christmas (perhaps because you both work in a hospital and cannot take leave).

So to directly answer your question, I think the most likely thing that's happened is you've overheard elided speech:

[Have a] Happy Holiday!

This is different to the US idiomatic valediction "Happy Holidays!", but has the same meaning; and it would be fully understood by the listener as being a farewell before a vacation begins.

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    Definitely not "idiomatic" in BrE. Puts me in mind of the (normally, equally vacuous) "Have a nice day!" – FumbleFingers May 30 '13 at 21:37
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    In AmE, holidays and vacations are different. So the Morocco example does not apply. Both people do not have to celebrate the holiday in question. Happy Holidays does not refer to a holiday that is only one day long. In the case of the guy taking only one day off, the plural form is still used because it refers to the holiday season that includes more than one official holiday. For a holiday lasting one day only, Happy Holiday is appropriate and there is no need to interpret the singular form as elided speech. – Alan Carmack Jun 9 '16 at 5:21
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Happy Holidays is used only around Christmas in the USA. Traditionally, it was meant to include both Christmas and New Year's Day. As the years progressed it was used to include other holidays of that season, such as Chanukah, the Winter Solstice and various "Light Festivals" celebrated midwinter by other cultures . We don't usually say "Happy Holiday" at other times, although there's nothing wrong with saying it. We're more likely to say, "Enjoy your holiday" or to say, "Happy _______", and name the specific holiday.

As others have mentioned, "vacation " and "holiday" have different meaning in American English.

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    While this is interesting, it doesn't actually answer the question explicitly. – ColleenV Dec 9 '16 at 13:25

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