Printable Version
Pronunciation: kris-mês-taid Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun, mass (no plural)

Meaning: The Twelve Days of Christmas, from Christmas eve to the eve of Epiphany, January 5, the same season celebrated in the famous Christmas carol of the same name.

Notes: Today's word is a bit nostalgic since it contains the mysterious and poorly understood term tide. Today tide refers to the rise and fall of the oceans. It originally meant "time", before its meaning was reduced to just those times when the sea rises and falls.

In Play: Because so few Christian churches in English-speaking countries celebrate the original Christmastide now, today's Good Word has become confused with the general phrase, Christmas time. The sense of romance and nostalgia that Christmastide bestirs often guides it into church programs and announcements. Just remember it is the holiday season between Christmas and a bit beyond New Year's Day. Very little gets done over Christmastide; in fact, most schools in the US are closed over Christmastide.

Word History: Christmas, of course, is based on Christ. The word tide comes from PIE da- "to divide". With the suffix -m it emerges in Greek demos "people, land", things often divided, and all the words English borrowed containing it, such as democracy and pandemic. With the suffix -d, it gave English tide "time", now with a new meaning (sea tides) and with the old one in archaisms like eventide and today's word. The verb tidan "to happen" (to occur in time) left us the beautiful noun tidings "happenings, news", as in the glad tidings, brought by angels to the shepherds in the Christmas Story.

Dr. Goodword,

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