Sometime round about the 1580s the phrase in the nick or in the very nick began to be used for the critical moment, the exact instant at which something has to take place. The idea seems to have been that a nick was a narrow and precise marker, so that if something was in the nick it was precisely where it should be.
'Nick of time' came to my mind yesterday when I raked the leaves under the grand maple out front. It is the 'last tree to drop' in the entire neighbourhood. Everything is bare, and only willows keep their leaves longer than this one maple. It still has leaves today. So yesterday's raking could be a critical moment - especially if a snow storm ensues today.
There are many references to critical moment - from analysis of conversation and communication to sports athletics. Fascinating is the title of the 2010 book 'The Critical Moment.' It was attributed to the former Chinese Premier, Li Peng, covering the events leading up to and shortly after the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989. The publication was withdrawn due to copyright concerns as it was supposedly from his diaries.
I wondered about Christmas critical moments, as Santa coming down the chimney and flying across the sky seem to involve an enormous number of these. I did find a vintage print from Harper's Weekly with critical moment in the title.
I guess we have our own version of this with Guinness records:
The largest human Christmas tree consists of 4,030 participants and was made in India on December 19, 2015, of school children from the village of Chengannur.