Christmas

Christmas

Instructions: 

Read about Christmas in the UK  then do the exercises to check your understanding.

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Christmas in the UK is the biggest holiday of the year. Family gatherings, turkey, presents and parties are just some of the things that come to mind when we think about Christmas time.

Christmas can mean different things to different people. For many people it means eating a lot and spending time with family and visiting relatives and friends. For children it often means presents, presents and more presents!

The origins of Christmas

In ancient times people had mid-winter festivals when the days were short and the nights were very long. They believed that their ceremonies would help the sun’s power return. The Romans decorated their homes with green plants in December to remind Saturn, their harvest god, to return the following spring. In CE440 the Christian church decided that the birth of Christ should be celebrated every year on December 25th. Some of these ancient customs were adopted by early Christians as part of their celebrations of the birthday of Jesus Christ. Green plants are still used to decorate many British homes in December. At Christmas we cover trees (real ones or reusable synthetic trees) with shiny balls and flashing lights!

Cards and presents

It’s very common to send Christmas cards to friends, family, colleagues, classmates and neighbours in the weeks leading up to December 25th. Christmas is traditionally a time for helping other people and giving money to charities. Many people send charity cards; where a percentage of the cost of each card goes to charity. People send fewer cards than in the past as they now send Christmas greetings by email or via Facebook. Christmas presents are reserved for close friends and family. Traditionally the giving of a gift is symbolic of the Three Wise Men giving their gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh to the baby Jesus. Popular presents for young people in the UK in recent years include a Smart phone, a Playstation Move and 80s retro fashion.

Father Christmas (aka Santa Claus)

Every year small children tell Father Christmas (also known as Santa Claus) exactly what presents they would like to receive. They can write him a letter with a list of requests or they can visit him personally in one of the large department stores across Britain in the weeks before Christmas. On the night of December 24th Father Christmas travels through the sky on a sleigh pulled by magic reindeers and delivers presents to children across Britain. How does he enter the children’s houses? Via the chimney, of course!

The Christmas number one

Every year, for a few weeks around Christmas time, the UK music charts go mad. Groups and singers who normally make cool music create a song that they hope will be number one on Christmas Day. The Christmas number one single is written about in newspapers, talked about on the radio and people can even bet money in betting shops to see which song will win the race. In the last ten years, the Christmas number one has been dominated by singers who have won reality television competitions. Recently the band ‘Rage Against the Machine’ started a Facebook campaign to be the first group with a Christmas number 1 with a download-only song. They won their anti-corporate campaign with the song ‘Killing in the name’.

Snow

Snow at Christmas is part of British culture. You often see it on Christmas cards, you can buy fake snow to decorate your house and there are even songs about snow at Christmas. There was lots of snow last winter in the UK so many people enjoyed a white Christmas. People can bet on whether it will snow or not on December 25th at betting shops around the country.

Turkey and crackers

Christmas dinner is usually eaten at midday or early afternoon. It traditionally includes roast turkey, vegetables and potatoes. There are also lots of alternatives to the turkey dinner for vegetarians who prefer a meat-free Christmas. Dessert is a rich, fruity cake called Christmas pudding. Traditionally a Christmas cracker is placed next to each person. When you pull the cracker with the person next to you, you hear a loud ‘bang!’ and a paper hat, a joke and a small gift fall from the cracker. You have to wear the hat, tell the joke to the other people at the table and keep the gift.

Christmas means ...

Does everyone like Christmas? These comments from young Brits reflect some of the wide range of opinions about Christmas in the UK:

Christmas to me means catching up with your family and having a laugh. Last of all opening your presents.
- Yasmeen, 20, Liverpool

It’s too commercial. There are too many adverts trying to get everyone to spend their money.
- Ruby, 15, London

Bringing all your family together, having a laugh, giving presents and eating loads of delicious foods. YUM! YUM!
- James, 13, Crediton

The shops start selling Christmas cards in September! That’s 3 months before Christmas. Ridiculous!
- Tony, 18, Bakewell

I work for a charity that gives food to homeless people every Christmas. These people have no home or family so we try to make December 25th a happy day for them.
- Claire, 22, Derby

I think Xmas is as much about giving as it is getting. I also think it's a time for the whole family to get together and enjoy being with each other.
- Charlie, 15, Canterbury

I think that Christmas is a religious time, not just for Christians but for Jews and Muslims too. I celebrate the season the Christian way.
- Alisha, 16, Manchester

Total votes: 1070

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Discussion

Do you celebrate Christmas? If so, what do you like best about it? If not, tell us about your favourite holiday of the year.

Comments

EMProfLauroTravassos's picture
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HI! My name is Giovana and I live in Brazil. I came to talk about my Christmas. my Christmas is fun, I play a lot and I eat a lot of food. I like the home, it's fun. my home has radish, toast and all, is a delight this is my home.

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46 users have voted.
Tina - Coordinator's picture
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Dear EMProfLauroTravassos
Welcome to LearnEnglish teens! Thanks for your comments. Please can you create separate accounts for each user as well as separate usernames for each user? In our House Rules we ask you not to share your account with other people and also all users of the site must be between 13 and 17 years old. If your learners are younger than that they can use our LearnEnglish Kids website where they can create their own accounts. Thanks a lot! :)
Best wishes, Tina (LearnEnglish Teens Team)

 

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47 users have voted.
EMProfLauroTravassos's picture
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Hello, Tina! I'm their teacher and first of all, I'd like to thank you for accepting their comments.
Second, I apologise for letting kids under 13 to make some comments here. Third, let me explain the context: They are students from a public school in Rio de Janeiro and they just have a 50-minute English class per week, which means that we didn't have enough time to create separate accounts because most of them don't even have e-mail accounts, so if we had to create e-mail accounts in order to register here, we couldn't have time to discuss about Christmas in different places and also to make some comments. In addition to that, I chose this website because of the content. And last, but not least, we had such fruitful discussions about Christmas while reading the comments! I must say that it was a great experience not only for me, as a teacher, but also for them because it was their first experience using English online.
If I may make a suggestion, I'd like to suggest the possibility of having group accounts in a near future here. That would be vey helpful!
Best wishes,
Vanessa

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51 users have voted.
JoEditor's picture
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Hi Vanessa,
Thanks a lot for your explanation. We're pleased to read that you had a good discussion with your students when reading the comments, that's great! Don't forget you and your students can always use this website and read all the comments but we do try to limit the users who write comments on the site to 13-17 year olds. 
I take your suggestion about group accounts, but from a user safety point of view it's not a good idea. It's important to teach young people the importance of not sharing accounts on any websites or social media spaces so we encourage each learner to create their own account - then if we have any problems we can contact the user directly. 
Best wishes, Jo (LearnEnglish Teens Editor) 

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44 users have voted.
Gabriela_15's picture
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Yes, I celebrate Christmas with my family. I think that the best of christmas is share the happiness with the family and to enjoy of a great time together.

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48 users have voted.
at35z's picture
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I really like Christmas, but to be honest, it's getting worse all the time. I think it's all about the presents and chaos in the shops, what's not so good in my opinion. It should be about love and the family, not about this "gift" things.

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179 users have voted.
Sportycoffeeforever's picture
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Christmas is coming and it's a great holiday! Merry ChriIstmas to you, Jo Editor!!!!! Could you tell me if New Year in the UK is as widely celebrated as Christmas? As far as I know it isn't . And the British people go to bed at their usual time instead of excitedly celebrate it at 12 at p.m. on the 31 of December.
Probably, it's as true as white bears in Moscow sreets?

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140 users have voted.
butterfly1999's picture
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What I like best about Christmas is that you get lots of presents and you spend the whole day with all your family and friends. Christmas can mean different things to different people, for many people it means eating a lot and spending time with family and visiting relatives and friends. For children it often means presents, presents and more presents!

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147 users have voted.
sailor moon's picture
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in Italy we celebrate christmas on 25th december. it is a happy day. for me christmas means everything about how to have a nice day with my family. often i make parties with my friends. i have so much fun.

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159 users have voted.
ellen's picture
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In AZERBAIJAN we celebrate Christmas on the 31 of January.
Christmas can mean different things to different people. For many people it means eating a lot and spending time with family and visiting relatives and friends. For children it often means presents, presents and more presents!
Christmas is great holiday.
My favorite holidays are NOVRUZ and SACRIFICE HOLIDAYS.
EACH aid to those two muslim holiday.

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197 users have voted.
Bosnianchild's picture
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No, I don't celebrate Christmas. In Bosnia and Herzegovina there are Christians and they celebrate it.
Christmas is great holiday. I love Christmas films and in the town there is special spirit.
My favorite holiday is ''Bajram''. This special holiday for us, Muslims. There are two ''Bajram''. One is after Ramadan and the second is 22 days after that.

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191 users have voted.
Hanna's picture
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In Ukraine we celebrate Christmas on the 7 of January, because bigger part of people are Orthodox Christians. We have bigger celebration for New Year cause It's earlier than Christmas and children get more presents at New Year Eve) I like celebrate Christmas and I always cook alot of tasty dishes and buy presents for my relatives)

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152 users have voted.
Niluh's picture
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No, i don't celebrate Christmas. December is my favourite time, i get school off, have long vacation and it's rainy here in Indonesia so i won't get hot spending time all day in my lovely room (cause it's very hot in the summer).

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155 users have voted.
Pitaloka's picture
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Yes I celebrate christmas! I always waiting this day every year!
There's no differences from celebrate christmas in UK and my place. It's just we don't eat turkey.

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209 users have voted.

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