All over the world, Christmas is a time to exchange presents, be with family and loved ones, eat good food and have fun. It also means a lot of new English vocabulary, some of which is only used during this season. It’s important to know how to speak about Christmas in English, because many English speakers celebrate the holiday—even if they celebrate it a little differently from each other.
One fun thing about Christmas is putting up the decorations – things you put around the house or outside to make your home more attractive for the holidays. Christmas trees have their own kinds of decorations, called ornaments. These decorations can look like anything, but one of the most common Christmas ornaments are shiny ball-shaped decorations that you hang from the tree branches. After you hang all the ornaments, it’s time to put the tinsel on the tree. Tinsel is long strings of shiny strips of foil, usually silver, red or gold.
The tree is not the only bit of nature people bring into their homes for the holidays. Three traditional Christmas plants are holly, poinsettias, and mistletoe. All three come in the colors of Christmas: green and red. Holly and poinsettias are used just as decorations, but mistletoe has a special meaning. Hang one somewhere high, and any two people who stand under the mistletoe together must kiss!
You can bring Christmas cheer outside your home, too, by hanging a wreath on your door. A wreath is a round decoration usually made with leaves and other natural objects like pine cones and flowers.
Traditional Christmas food and drinks
Traditional Christmas food and drinks are different around the world. Usually there’s a big focus on things that make you feel warm, like hot drinks and spices. Many places have a feast—a large meal eaten in celebration. Many traditional foods are sweet treats. Gingerbread cookies are made from sweet and sticky molasses and the ginger root. Fruitcake is a bread-like cake with candied fruits. If you don’t like fruitcakes, you might prefer a Christmas pudding, which is a creamy brown dessert that uses nuts, raisins and sometimes cherries.
Candy canes are candy sticks curved on the end like a walking stick, usually with red and white stripes. These days candy canes come in many different flavors, but traditionally they taste like peppermint, a type of mint plant with a very fresh smell and taste. In the United Kingdom, another favorite Christmas treat is the mince pie, a small pie made from dried fruit, spices and sometimes cut up meat (“mince” means to cut up meat into very small pieces).
Christmas has some special drinks too, like eggnog, which is made with egg and cream (you either love it or you hate it!). Another common drink is apple cider, a thick apple juice that’s usually served warm with spices like nutmeg and cinnamon. Both eggnog and apple cider can be mixed with alcohol for extra warmth.
Spending time with the family
Of course, the best part of Christmas is spending time with your family and people you care about! Families come together at Christmas to enjoy the festivities, meaning to celebrate the happy holiday.
Exchanging presents is a big part of the festivities. Traditionally, everyone puts their presents under the tree, which are then unwrapped on Christmas morning (the 25th). Every family member also gets one stocking – these are big red and white socks, hung up near the tree. Small gifts called ‘stocking stuffers’ are placed inside, like candy or small toys.
Apart from exchanging gifts, some families also go caroling, which is when you sing traditional Christmas songs (called “carols”), or go to church together. And of course, Christmas is also the perfect time to gather round a cozy fire and just chat!
We hope that after reading this you’re all warmed up and ready to celebrate Christmas… in English! The English To Go team wishes you a very merry Christmas and we look forward to seeing you at our school in the new year! 🙂