Looking to improve your language skills this holiday season? Check out this curated list of common English words and phrases that we’ll prove useful during the holidays. In this English learning podcast, we cover festive vocabulary and common English phrases used at this time of year.
Christmas is upon us, and you know what that means: time to brush up on your vocabulary. I’m here to help with a list of common English words found in everyday conversations in most English-speaking countries at this time of year.
Regardless of your religious beliefs, one of the most exciting times of the year is Christmas. For many, it’s a time when loved ones come together to celebrate and spend time with each other. Enjoying different types of delicious food, having fun with games and presents, and exchanging gifts is what many think about when they think of Christmas.
And so this is Christmas…what have you done?
⭐ John Lennon
Whether you want to impress your friends while you hang out over this festive season or want to create magic in your workplace through some unique corporate events, you will surely need a few suitable English words in hand!
Advent Curated Calendar Preferable Boxing Eve Wrap Gerund
Hi I’m Hilary and welcome to this latest podcast from Adept English. Well, it’s the 23rd December and this is our Christmas edition of the podcast. Happy Christmas to anyone who celebrates Christmas and Happy Holidays to anyone who doesn’t. If you’re not someone who celebrates Christmas, some of the vocabulary in this podcast may still be useful to you, if you need to negotiate December in an English speaking country.
Christmas is something that’s very prominent in English speaking countries, and in the UK that’s despite the fact that most people here are not Christians or at least, not practising Christians - they still celebrate Christmas in a big way. So it’s still good vocabulary to learn. And for those of you who do celebrate Christmas, enjoy!
So the British Christmas. What are some of our traditions? Well, the Christmas season starts with Advent, ADVENT. Advent is a season of the Christian church actually - and it means the period before Christmas - starting on the fourth Sunday before Christmas. However, to the majority of non-church-goers in the UK, Advent is thought of as starting on the 1st December.
This is when most radio stations start to play Christmas songs - and it’s also when children and some adults open the first window on their Advent Calendar. An Advent Calendar is a calendar, CALENDAR, which counts down the days from the 1st December, usually until Christmas Eve, the 24th.
When I was a child, you just got to open a little cardboard door - and there was a different Christmas picture behind it. But I’m showing my age there - most people and children now know the Advent Calendar as something which contains chocolate! There’s an element of surprise because you get to open the correct numbered door for the day, to claim your treat.
Like many of our Christmas traditions, Advent Calendars or the idea, came from Germany. Friends of mine are lucky enough to have a ‘Gin Advent Calendar’ - lots of little bottles, so-called ‘miniatures’ of different types of gin to try. That’s a nice idea!
Throughout December, we do our Christmas shopping, though of course this has changed out of all recognition in the last ten years. No more ‘pounding the streets’ doing your shopping on foot, looking for something to buy people in real shops. This seems a very old fashioned idea now - sorry High Street retailers! Most shops do have an online presence anyway - so their business just arrives a different way.
For most people, Christmas shopping is now an online activity. And for me, that’s fine - it just takes far less time and energy. And people can look themselves at what they want and make make suggestions to you for their Christmas presents. Less waste, fewer unwanted Christmas presents that way, I think. Wholly preferable, wholly sensible. And I do try to do less Amazon and give more business to small companies, small retailers.
So anyway, ‘Christmas presents’ is the vocabulary here - these are the gifts that you give friends and family. And for us in the UK, the Christmas presents, the gifts are opened - and given usually, and opened on the 25th December, Christmas Day.
What do you do with those Christmas presents, that you’ve bought for other people? Well, for most people ‘wrapping’ the Christmas presents is part of it. I do know someone who ‘wraps in tin foil’, but for most people wrapping Christmas presents in nice Christmas paper is the norm. So there’s the verb ‘to wrap’, WRAP - notice that silent W there. And if we talk about ‘wrapping’ - that’s the activity of ‘wrapping Christmas presents in paper’ But we might also use that to talk about the paper - or we might say ‘wrapping paper’.
That’s rolls of paper with Christmas designs that you buy to do your wrapping. If you like grammar, that’s a good example of a ‘gerund’, GERUND, so a verb being used as a noun form - as in ‘I must get on with my Christmas wrapping’ or as an adjective as in ‘Christmas wrapping paper’. I do also know someone, who is very ‘eco-minded’ with his Christmas wrapping paper. It’s always plain brown paper, with reusable ribbon - so that everything recycles or can be used again.
So our words for the main days of Christmas are Christmas Eve, EVE - and that’s the 24th December. Christmas Day - the ‘main event’, if you like is the 25th December and the 26th December in the UK is also a holiday and called ‘Boxing Day’. That’s BOXING - another gerund! I’ve done a podcast previously on ‘Boxing Day’ and why it’s called that. Christmas Eve - the ‘eve’, the EVE bit means that it’s ‘on the eve’ of Christmas - ‘eve’ means ‘the night before’ or ‘the day before’.
Other ‘eves’? New Years Eve is 31st December - so that’s on the ‘eve’ of New Year’s Day. And another name for Halloween, 31st October is ‘All Hallows Eve’ - ‘Hallows’ in this context means those who are dead and Christians remember them on 1st November, ‘All Saints’ Day. Hence why it’s ‘All Hallows Eve’, which is where Halloween comes from.
More vocabulary here - if you’re a child (and for some young adults in our house too!) - on Christmas Eve, 24th December, you hang up your ‘Christmas stocking’ in the hope that Father Christmas will put some nice things in it by the next day. A ‘stocking’, STOCKING in this context, it’s like a big sock - and you hang it on your fireplace.
Father Christmas apparently knows ‘whose is whose’ and you wake up on Christmas Day and these stockings are miraculously filled with lovely small presents and chocolates. Amazing, isn’t it how that happens? So if we talk about ‘Christmas morning’ - and there we’re referring to the morning of the 25th December, which is when people open their presents. Again - more miracles - they come down to find lots of presents under the Christmas tree! Father Christmas again! So Christmas morning is about opening presents.
Another important part of Christmas Day is of course the Christmas Dinner. For many families here in the UK, it’s still turkey, TURKEY - which is a big bird and tastes rather like chicken. But people also have chicken, duck or goose as their main roast meat. Or it could be a vegetarian nut roast. People also eat roast potatoes, vegetables, cranberry sauce, bread sauce, stuffing, gravy.
Christmas food is a whole other set of vocabulary. There’s likely to be some alcohol consumed by many people on Christmas Day too. And at 3pm, Queen Elizabeth II gives her televised Christmas speech every year, which most people watch on the BBC. She’s now aged 95 - so we need to savour and appreciate her.
A photograph of a Union Jack flag and a queens crown. This holiday season, surprise your friends and family with these common English words.
We now call the evening of Christmas Day ‘Christmas Night’. And it’s usually quite a relaxed affair - everything’s closed on Christmas Day pretty much in the UK - so no one’s going out. We’re all home, either watching television or playing games with the family. In our house, my elder daughter likes to do ‘smoked salmon blinis’ on Christmas Night, but for many people, a cold turkey sandwich and a mince pie will be all they need after their huge Christmas Dinner.
I like to think that Christmas lasts beyond Christmas Day - and we’re still in Christmas mood on Boxing Day, which is also a bank holiday in the UK - and beyond that day. Most people are lucky enough to have the days between Christmas and New Year as holiday - though obviously this isn’t possible in all professions - some people have to work all the time.
So we try to make the Christmas feeling and the celebrations and the food last up until the next celebration a week later, which is New Year and New Year’s Eve. I’m not sure this year what’s going to be open on New Year’s Eve - I wonder if we’ll be in another mini-lockdown by then because of the Omicron variant. But I’m very hopeful for 2022! And never mind, we’ll probably get to celebrate Christmas a bit more this year.
So there’s my Christmas vocabulary run-down. Don’t forget if you’ve got any spare time over Christmas, you could buy one of our podcast bundles and do even more listening practice with Adept English.
My very best wishes to everyone - whether you celebrate Christmas or you don’t - I wish you well. And thankyou to all of you who have supported Adept English and listened to us in 2021.
Enough for now. Have a lovely day. Speak to you again soon. Goodbye.