There are certain terms and phrases that have found their way into common English usage from a variety of sources. Song lyrics or movie titles can take ordinary words and use them in a unique way that catapults them into widespread use, sometimes in ways that they were not originally intended. “tis the season” is one such phrase that has become widely used in the United States.
What is the Meaning of tis the Season?
The phrase “tis the season!” has come to denote the time before Christmas, basically from October until December 24th. It can be seen in numerous holiday advertisements and literature, and you can count on your local hometown newspaper to use it at least once a year in a front-page headline.
While the season that the phrase refers to is intended to be the Christmas season, the phrase has been picked up and used in any number of variations by concatenating it with a different phrase. So the relatively tame “tis the season to be jolly”, as the original lyrics were written, can be transformed into a multitude of new phrases with diverse meanings.
Advertisers often state that “tis the season for savings” when promoting their products around the Christmas season. In fact, a search on the web for the phrase “tis the season for…” turns up such results as “for Tweeting” to “Celebrating” to “Holiday Scams”. The phrase has become entrenched in common English usage and is now used in a much broader sense than when it first gained popularity.
Where did the Phrase Originate?
It is generally accepted that the phrase “tis the season” originated in the Christmas song Deck The Halls, which was written by Scottish musician Thomas Oliphant in around 1862. It features the rather archaic contraction ’tis for the two words “it is” in the line “’tis the season to be jolly”.
The phrase is fairly innocuous except for the unusual contraction. If you look at it objectively, there is no real reason to use “’tis” rather than “it’s”. Both contractions consist of exactly the same number of characters, so there are no savings achieved by switching the words. If anything, it goes against the traditional regular English usage. Perhaps it was used in the song’s lyrics as an example of poetic license and just to give it a little character. When writing the line “tis the season”, grammar was not uppermost in the songwriter’s mind.
This is certainly not the first time that the contraction ’tis makes an appearance in the English language. Its usage can be traced back to the 1500s. According to grammarly.com, the contraction ’tis is what is known as a proclitic. A proclitic is a word pronounced with so little emphasis that it is shortened and forms part of the following word. Another example of a proclitic is combining you and all to form the contraction y’all.
The contraction ’tis can be found in the works of many famous authors including Shakespeare and Emily Dickinson. The use of the word reached the height of its popularity in the 1700s.
Various Uses of the Phrase ’tis the season
The popularity of the Christmas song Deck The Halls was the impetus for the phrase to gain a foothold in the popular vernacular of 19th and 20th Century America. It has retained its original meaning and is used by many Americans around the holiday season.
Let’s look at some ways that the phrase has been used to promote movies, music, and other endeavors. Sometimes the phrase is used by itself, and at other times combined with a second phrase in totally original ways.
’Tis the Season For Love — This is the title of a Hallmark produced television movie that was released in November of 2015. It is a story of an out of work actress stuck in New York City and all alone at Christmas time. She decides to go home to her small town for the holidays and discovers that it has changed since she left 10 years earlier. It stars Sarah Lancaster and Brendan Penny in a love story that follows the usual Hallmark script, ending with a happy ending for all.
’Tis The Season — Here is another movie that trades on the familiarity of the phrase in choosing their title. This is a documentary released in November of 2017 that follows the largest a Cappella Christmas caroling group in Southern California. The group, named the Voices of Christmas, have a busy holiday season of performances in various corporate and social engagements. Documentary filmmakers followed the group from May, when the season’s bookings are made, through the performance season. It includes in-depth, behind the scene footage of auditions and is a great way to enjoy some nice holiday music while watching the workings of a world-class vocal group.
’Tis The Season — Here is one more film that uses the title and looks at the season from a different perspective. Released in 2013 and only running for 32 minutes, this short film follows the life of Jerry, a low-life who makes money stealing bags during the holiday season. Fa-la-la-la-la.
’Tis The Season — In another creative use of this well-worn phrase, the popular singer Jimmy Buffet used it as the title of his 2016 collection of Christmas songs. He covers a variety of Christmas classics as well as some originals but does not give us his rendition of Deck The Halls on this album.
You will find this phrase used in many advertising slogans that cover just about any area of commerce or business that you can imagine. You can find many more with a simple Google search, but here are a few just to whet your appetite.
- ’Tis the Season for Excess – from Shape Magazine.
- ’Tis the Season for Sweet Corn Bisque – the Sun Sentinel
- ’Tis the Season for Holiday Scams – Horicon Bank
- ’Tis the season for Anxiety – Dr. Tracy Thomas
So now you know where the phrase “tis the season” came from and see of the ways it is used today. Just keep this in mind, ’tis always the season for something, so get on it!