It being almost Christmas, allow us to be conscious of our clever authorities’s recommendation. The official steerage on “Christmas bubbles” opens: “The festive interval is a crucial time for many individuals of all faiths and none who come collectively over the vacations” – which apparently implies that the festive interval will not be necessary for individuals who come collectively, however to carp thus is to be un-festive.
The Latin festum means a pageant or vacation, and “festive” hungrily enters the English language within the seventeenth century to imply, significantly, pertaining to a feast. (Consuming and celebration go collectively, in fact, in “feast day”.) Thereafter “festive” can imply merely convivial or cheerful, an perspective not confined to the darkest time of yr. (Wordsworth, 1815: “The place lies the Land to which yon Ship should go? / Festively she places forth in trim array”.)
The phrase “festive season” has described yuletide for the reason that early nineteenth century, nevertheless it needn’t, because it simply means any season during which feasting is a good suggestion. In honour of those that shall be alone this month, why not nominate subsequent Easter, when many extra shall be vaccinated, as the true festive interval?
• Steven Poole’s A Phrase for Each Day of the 12 months is revealed by Quercus.