'Tis the Season!

23 December 2023

And now, Words and Their Stories, from VOA Learning English.

Today we talk about the word "season." We use this word in many different ways.

"Season" can refer to one of the four parts of the year. For example, Washington, D.C. is in a part of the United States that has four seasons: winter, spring, summer, and autumn. Some parts of the U.S. do not have four seasons.

FILE - A diver dressed as Santa Claus performs amongst fish during a Christmas-themed underwater show at an aquarium in Seoul, South Korea on December 4, 2019. (Photo by Jung Yeon-je / AFP)
FILE - A diver dressed as Santa Claus performs amongst fish during a Christmas-themed underwater show at an aquarium in Seoul, South Korea on December 4, 2019. (Photo by Jung Yeon-je / AFP)

"Season" can also describe the periods marked by warmth and growth or cold weather and falling leaves. For example, when the weather becomes warmer and days are lighter longer, the growing season begins for some plants. When the weather gets colder and the days darker, the hibernation season begins for some animals.

We also use "season" to describe periods that are only related to the weather. For example, some areas of the world have rainy seasons and dry seasons. Some parts of the U.S. have tornado season. And in other parts of the world there are monsoon seasons.

"Season" can also refer to the time before and during a major holiday. December is a busy holiday season in many parts of the world. Holidays include Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe and the Winter Solstice. December is often a time to take a break from work and spend time with loved ones.

Speaking of Christmas, when we say ‘tis the season we are talking about something dealing with this holiday – its good side and its not-so-good side. For example, let's say I give a co-worker a big box of homemade cookies. They might say to me, "Thanks! But why are you giving me so many cookies?" I can answer, "'Tis the season!"

Here is another example. If I go out to a store and it is packed with holiday shoppers, I could complain to a friend. And they could respond, "Well, ‘tis the season!" What they really mean is this: At this time of the year, stores are usually very busy with Christmas shoppers.

In fact, Christmas is like open season on shopping deals. "Open season on" something means that it is being hunted, targeted, or in this case ... bought.

"Open season" also describes a period of time when a particular activity or opportunity is unrestricted. It is widely available. This term probably comes from hunting. Hunting traditionally has many restrictions. People can hunt only at certain times of the year and even then, there are restrictions on which animals and how many you can hunt. Fishing too has similar restrictions. But if it is open season, there are few restrictions.

As in our earlier shopping example, we can use this term for just about anything that is targeted with few restrictions. When talking about the best times to travel, for example, it is a good idea to travel off-season. If few people are traveling, it is a good time to find cheap air travel, hotels, and rental cars. It is open season on travel deals.

And like hunting season, we can have other "seasons" too. For example, beach areas are popular during tourist season. And people with allergies probably do not like hay fever season or allergy season.

So, "season" can simply mean a time of the year marked by a special activity. Sports seasons, for example, are popular with fans of sports.

We also have different seasons in our lives: Our time as children, going off to college, becoming parents, helping our aging parents, starting new careers or starting retirement. These are all different seasons of life. And they all have different aspects to enjoy and to be thankful for.

And that's the end of this Words and Their Stories. Until next time ...

I'm Anna Matteo.

Anna Matteo wrote this lesson for VOA Learning English.


Words in This Story

refer to –v. (phrasal) to talks about or describe

hibernate –v. to pass winter in a resting state : hibernation –n.

complain –v. to say that you are unhappy with something

cheap –adj. not costly; low cost

rental –adj. something you have paid for the temporary use of

allergy –n. a condition of being especially sensitive to things like pollen, mold or foods which can make a person suffering from it feel sick

career –n. the period of working and doing a job in one's life, especially within one field or profession

aspect –n. a part of something

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