In Japan there are three major domestic holiday periods that significantly set the rhythm of the nation: New Years', "Golden Week" in early May and the month of August.
Japanese culture reveres the first sunrise of the new year as an omen for prosperity so the entire country picks a favorite hilltop or other vantage point to park themselves before dawn to watch the (Land of the Rising) Sun come up. Unlike their European brethren who simply take August to bake on the beaches of Florida, Spain, Greece and Northern Africa, the Japanese celebrate "O-bon," the Buddhist festival of paying respects to the ancestors. All flights and trains are booked solid and the highways are bumper to bumper as the entire nation picks up as a single body and sorts itself out at familial places of birth across every inch of the island country.
"Golden Week" includes holidays on May 3rd, 4th and 5th as well as April 29th should any given year dial up that date in the same calendar week. This one week celebrates everything from Hirohito's birthday to the promulgation of their post-war constitution. Of the three, this one is "at your leisure" meaning they are not hide bound to climb a mountain or go "down home" to fix up the family graveyards; they're free to travel wherever their means and desires carry them.
These are the moments when all of Japan is "out of the office." I learned of this rhythm, which also includes skewing most national holidays to a "Happy Monday" schedule, while traveling there on business and it caused me to reflect on the rhythm of my own country and in particular when I personally like to be "out of the office."
The major holiday season for the United States is largely considered to begin in September over the Labor Day weekend, ironically right around the beginning of the school year. The kids are back in school and "Opening Weekend" for the National Football League is more on the minds of Americans than the reason behind the holiday, even among the workers it is intended to honor. After that each holiday is fairly evenly spaced from one to the next, including the non-official "holiday" of Halloween but all are merely opening acts to Thanksgiving and Christmas.
Corporations start wrapping up next year's budget, major projects typically get tabled until January and people start to think towards travel, turkey and (snow) tires. This is the season that I like to schedule my own major vacations. Where some like to take time off early in the year in way that extends the holidays from the previous year, by January I'm ready mentally to get back to work and set up the bulk of the year for professional achievement and success. By the end of the year I like to look back, reflect on accomplishments, focus on missed opportunities and celebrate a lot of hard work with a good long paid leave of absence, preferably overseas.
Over my history I traveled to Greece in November and experienced Australia, Egypt, Israel and New Zealand in October. Not only did I spend all year looking forward to these wonderful opportunities but I learned to appreciate carefully planned shoulder- and low-season travel savings as well! The one major exception to that pattern was visiting Thailand in July (also low season) but that was entirely because I was a retail store manager; nobody in retail has a life of their own from October to January which was a Top Five reason for me quitting that industry.
I'll get a little bit more in to what I actually consider a vacation and the types of vacations I like to take a bit later. Let's just say that I enjoy good weather, limited crowds and a good bargain!
Now if only the U.S. would guarantee three-day weekends for its major holidays. Happy Friday, y'all!