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Holidays or Holy Days

An assembly from the Culham St Gabriel archive

Suitable for Whole School (Pri) - Church Schools


To consider the fact that holidays are good for us!

Preparation and materials

  • You will need the words for the poem ‘The sluggard’ by Isaac Watts (see the Assembly, Step 3).


  1. Ask the children if they have heard of the word ‘sluggard’ and if they know what it means. Explain that a sluggard is someone who is habitually lazy or inactive. Another version of the word is slug-a-bed’. I wonder if you know people who would rather stay in bed all day than get up and enjoy the day!

  2. The word ‘sluggard’ has been around for a long time. A famous hymn-writer called Isaac Watts (1674-1748) wrote a poem entitled ‘The sluggard’ for inclusion in his book, Divine and Moral Songs for Children. At this time, children were treated as young adults, and took responsibility for their own physical and spiritual wellbeing from an early age.
    Many years later, Lewis Carroll (1832-1898) parodied Watts' poem in a poem of his own called Tis the voice of the lobster in Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. Carroll lived in an age of increasing sentimentality towards children.

  3. Read the poem ‘The sluggard’, asking the children to try to understand the meaning behind it.

    The sluggard by Isaac Watts

    Tis the voice of the Sluggard: I heard him complain,
    You have waked me too soon! I must slumber again!
    As the door on its hinges, so he on his bed
    Turns his sides, and his shoulders, and his heavy head.

    A little more sleep, and a little more slumber!
    Thus he wastes half his days and his hours without number;
    And when he gets up, he sits folding his hands,
    Or walks about sauntering, or trifling he stands.

    I passed by his garden, and saw the wild brier,
    The thorn, and the thistle grow broader and higher:
    The clothes that hang on him are turning to rags;
    And his money still wastes, till he starves or he begs.

    I made him a visit, still hoping to find
    He had took better care for improving his mind:
    He told me his dreams, talk'd of eating and drinking,
    But he scarce reads his Bible, and never loves thinking.

    Said I then to my heart, Here's a lesson for me!
    That man's but a picture of what I might be;
    But thanks to my friends for their care in my breeding,
    Who have taught me by times to love working and reading!

  4. Ask the children what they think the poem is about. Point out that the Bible is mentioned, but the main thrust of the poem is about the need to work rather than laze about. The idea is that if you don't work, you won't achieve anything.
    Ask the children the following questions.

    - Would you have liked to live in Isaac Watts' time?
    - Are things all that different today?
    - How many of you have worked very hard this term?

  5. Luckily, children today have something that many children in the past didn’t have - holidays. Thank goodness for holidays!

  6. Christians believe that when God made the world, he set up a principle whereby people should have a rest. According to the Bible, God created the world in six days and rested on the seventh. Many people live by this principle today. Some people talk about Sunday as a day of rest.
    Jewish people have Saturday as their day of rest, or ‘sabbath’. This was the same in the time of Jesus. On that day, people were supposed to have a complete rest from doing any work. Listen to this story from Mark 2.23-24 and 27.

    One sabbath, Jesus was walking through some cornfields. As his disciples walked with him, they began to pick the ears of corn. So the Pharisees said to Jesus, Look, it is against our law for your disciples to do that on the sabbath!
    . . . Jesus told them, The sabbath was made for the good of human beings; human beings were not made for the sabbath.

  7. There are lots of other times in the Bible when Jesus says that people should be happy - at weddings, for example, or with their friends. Jesus wanted people to have the freedom to enjoy themselves and not be subdued by rules or worn out by working all the time. Today, we have so much holiday time that a whole industry is built around it. We spend a lot of time worrying about where we should go on holiday and whether we can afford a good one. We tire ourselves out trying to earn enough money for our dream holiday.

Time for reflection

The word holiday was originally two words: holy day. Holy days were days (and there were lots of them) when the Church encouraged people to stop work and celebrate the life of a saint or some other holy event. Maybe, instead of just thinking about our big holidays, we ought to think of each day as a sort of holy day . . . and try to get the right balance between work and play.

Dear God,
We thank you that we have a time of holiday to look forward to,
A time when we put work behind us and enjoy playing with our friends and family.
Help us also to enjoy and celebrate each day of our lives,
Thanking you for the sun and the sky, the animals and plants, our families and friends;
Everything that makes our lives rich and beautiful.
Help us to do this even on those days when we have to work!

Publication date: August 2016   (Vol.18 No.8)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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