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Why is it correct to say, "Summer is the golden season," but not necessary to use "the" when saying, "Winter is exercise season"?

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Many kinds of seasons don't require articles:

  • hunting season
  • tourist season
  • ski season
  • boating season
  • baseball season

I can't wait until ________ season!

Any of those five could be put in that sentence, and no article would be required. In that context,
x season essentially means, the time when we participate in x.

The phrase golden season, however, doesn't fit into that category. Golden season is not the season when we go goldening; it refers to something more abstract and sentimental.

The late teen years are the twilight season of parenting.

Here, the article is needed, because "twilight season" is not when we go twilighting, but indicates a latter stage of something.

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Duck season isn't really "the time when we participate in duck", so maybe we could say these examples have an implicit word like (hunting), something like: duck (hunting) season is "the time when we participate in duck (hunting)". And we could say something similar for other words: trout (fishing) season is "the time when we participate in trout (fishing)". – snailplane Apr 29 '14 at 23:07
@snailplane Don't you mean "rabbit season"? (apologies, it was too much to resist) – klugerama Apr 29 '14 at 23:44
@klugerama Be vewwy, vewwy quiet... – BobRodes Apr 30 '14 at 0:56

"the" distinguishes the "main" season for an activity.

Summer is the athletics season but spring or autumn may also be athletics seasons whilst winter is rarely regarded as an athletics season.

Other seasons may not refer to the weather seasons and be seasons by virtue of local laws or practice.

The Glorious 12th refers to UK red grouse hunting season - but even that may be the 13th when 12th falls on a Sunday.

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