A Christmastide message from 1885

Christmastide is an old liturgical word for the season that runs from Dec. 24 to Jan. 5, with specific times during those days varying within different types of churches.

Sometimes I’m curious to see how people in the United States have used less-familiar words like Christmastide because their origins tend to come from liturgical traditions more common on the other side of the Atlantic.

So I searched “Christmastide” in the Library of Congress’s database of old U.S. newspapers. That kind of search can provide a clue as to how words were used at certain times in U.S. history — or to what extent they were used.

For example, searching the database for “Christmastide” between 1789 and 1963, I found 6,385 returns.

Searching for “Christmas” during the same period, I found 1,382,961 returns.

That’s a big difference. “Christmastide” just wasn’t as popularly used during most of U.S. history, and maybe that gives some evidence toward the idea that American Christianity has tended to be less liturgical and less calendar-oriented. More “low church” and less “high church.” Possibly.

Beyond that, I can’t say the search for “Christmastide” revealed any special insights about religion in American — and I can’t say I read 6,385 returns — but I did find a seasonal message of reconciliation within a short, unsigned editorial in The Bossier Banner, Bellevue, Bossier Parish, La., Dec. 24, 1885:

And since love grows cold, sometimes with unwise estrangements, this Christmastide ought to send many out to regather and grasp the clues of ancient friendship. To those who clasp hands again after the long chill, and forgive, it should indeed be a merry Christmas.

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