Like Night and Day?

Here in Hamburg we’ve just celebrated Heilige Abend and Weihnachten – three days of festivities in all. Take apart that latter word, which we could translate as “Christmas,” and you get weih and nachten. The first part comes from the verb weihen which means “to consecrate” as in to make something holy or when used about a person a better translation would be “to ordain.” The second portion comes out of Middle High German where the plural for die Nacht – “night” – was not die Nächte as it is today but nahten. I find it intriguing how in English the holiday on the 24th is associated with evening – “Christmas Eve”- but typically we refer to the 25th as “Christmas Day” rather than “*Christmas Night.” Moreover, only one day is referred to – it isn’t “*Christmas Days.” If the 26th is a celebration, it is called “Boxing Day” (for more on that, see this Wikipedia entry).

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