Christmas Words (6): Twixmas

Today’s Christmas word is a recent invention: recent enough that nobody’s quite sure how to spell it.

The Guardian newspaper has already tried two versions: Betwixtmas and Twixtmas.

The BBC went with Twixmas, and we’re sticking with this as it’s easier to pronounce and to spell.

What on earth is Twixmas or Betwixtmas or whatever you call it?

All three variants refer to the same thing: it’s the week between Christmas and New Year.

The name(s) come from a mixture of betwixt (meaning between) and Christmas. We call this type of vocabulary mashup a portmanteau word.

Here in the UK, Christmas is on the 25th of December, and the 26th is a bank holiday called Boxing Day. Then the 31st is New Year’s Eve, with fireworks and other things happening.

Schools and universities don’t start until the 2nd of January at the earliest, and often later. So the question of how to fill the days between the 26th and 31st is a very real one.

Psssh. How can you get bored during a vacation!?

Bear in mind, the weather isn’t very good at this time of year. In this part of Europe, late December also has shorter days and earlier sunsets than any other time of year (except for mid-December). Despite that, we do see a lot of people outside in the dying days of the year, especially if there’s an hour or two of sunshine!

In addition, there’s a flat, lazy feeling after presents have been opened and used and Christmas meals have been eaten. People joke about eating turkey sandwiches for a week, but leftovers of some kind are a fixture in many households during Twixmas.

At least they should be glad they don’t have to work!

Well, some people do work at that time. Some have to, of course – nurses, bus drivers, and so on. And some employers give workers the chance to take a full Twixmas vacation using their annual leave, or, if they prefer, to do a few days in the office at a quiet and generally stress-free time of year.

Things get more complicated at work if Christmas, Boxing Day and New Year are on a weekend: this means workers miss out on a public holiday, so a lot of employers provide a day off in lieu on the following Monday.

If employers push too hard, it’s quite likely anyway that of their staff will take a sick day: cold weather and lots of socialising make this a prime time of year for germs and bugs to spread!

But this is getting into too much workplace vocabulary, and I’m already writing a lesson on “words for time off”, so let’s leave it there.

A couple of questions to finish:

  • Do you know of any other portmanteau words in English?
  • What holidays do you have in your country or region? Anything similar to Twixmas?

The main photo is by Danika Adderley, from Pexels. I don’t think these are leftover turkey sandwiches, do you? They look rather healthier!

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