Learning Vocabulary: Christmas in the UK
In this week's Premier Skills English Podcast, Jack and Rich give you an alternative countdown of the top ten things people in the UK do at Christmas time. The language focus is on vocabulary connected to Christmas. Your task is to tell us about a custom in your country. Don't forget to listen to the end of the podcast because we have a new football phrase for you to guess.
Learning Vocabulary: Christmas around the world
Jack: Hello my name’s Jack
Rich: and I’m Rich and welcome to this week’s Premier Skills English podcast
Jack: Where we talk about football and help you with your English.
Rich: We recommend that you listen to this podcast on the Premier Skills English website because that is where we have the transcript, language examples, activities, quizzes and a discussion page to help you understand everything we talk about.
Jack: However, if you’re listening on Apple Podcasts, you can leave answers to our questions in the review section. We do read all the reviews and would love to hear from you.
Rich: Don’t forget that we have our football English podcast called This Week that you can listen to at the start of every week. This week’s episode is all about Matchweek 17 in the Premier League. We talk about Liverpool’s win against Watford and look ahead to the Chelsea - Spurs match this weekend.
Jack: Some of the football words and phrases we look at include to set your sights on something, to set off and to level things up.
Rich: It’s on the Premier Skills English homepage, Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts and lots of other places right now!
Jack: In last week’s podcast, we were shopping for bargains at the shopping centre. We were buying Christmas presents for friends and family. We also introduced lots of words and phrases connected to bargains and shopping like a great deal, an unbeatable offer and a rip-off.
Rich: Jack ended up buying the cheapest presents he could find because he’s so stingy!
Jack: And you ended up buying things for yourself because you are so selfish!
Rich: Haha! Alright, let’s not get into an argument. If you want to look back at this podcast, you can find it on the Premier Skills English website by clicking skills>listen>podcasts>Learning Vocabulary: Shopping for bargains.
Jack: In this week’s podcast, we’re going to talk about Christmas a little more.
Rich: That’s why I’ve got my Santa hat on.
Jack: Yes, but our listeners can’t see it, Rich.
Rich: They can if they watch the live stream of this podcast on the Premier Skills - British Council facebook page or the Premier Skills YouTube channel.
Jack: That’s very true. Go and give us a like on Facebook or a thumbs up on YouTube if you like Rich’s Santa hat!
Rich: Right. This week’s podcast is about vocabulary and is called Learning Vocabulary: Christmas in the UK.
Jack: We’re going to talk about some Christmas customs in the UK that you may not know about. We’re going to give you a countdown of the top ten things people in the UK do at Christmas time.
Rich: And your task this week will be to tell us about a custom connected to Christmas or a well-known festival in your country that you think the rest of our learners will not know about.
Jack: That’s a lot to get through! And before we do all that we need to look at last week’s football phrase.
Last week’s Football Phrase
Rich: If you didn’t hear our football phrase last week we’re going to give you one more chance to guess now. We’ll give you the correct answer at the end of the show when we give you a new football phrase.
Jack: Well done if you got it right last week and congratulations to those of you who wrote the correct answer on the Premier Skills English website. Fajrif from Indonesia was the first listener with the correct answer last week but Alex from Ukraine was not far behind!
Rich: Remember you can also write your answers in the review section on Apple Podcasts if that’s where you listen to us.
Jack: Let’s hear last week’s phrase one more time. Do you know what the phrase is?
Rich: The football phrase is * ******* ***. This phrase is used to describe a player that is purchased from a lower league club or for a low price and performs very well at a higher level. The second word is not really necessary because the first word gives the meaning on its own. You often hear it about Jamie Vardy - Vardy was * ******* *** from the lower leagues.
Jack: We’ll give you the answer at the end of the show and we’ll have a new football phrase for you to guess.
Introduction to the countdown
Rich: As we said earlier, we’re talking about Christmas in the UK. We’re going to give you a countdown from number ten to number one of the things people do in the UK at Christmas.
Jack: This isn’t an official list - it’s just a bit of fun but it might give you an idea of what people do in the UK at Christmas.
Rich: While you are listening, we have a couple of questions for you to answer.
Jack: The questions are: Did you know about these things and do they sound fun, interesting or just a bit silly?
Top 10 Countdown
Rich: Our countdown of the top ten things people do in the UK at Christmas starts at number ten with pulling Christmas crackers.
Jack: Christmas crackers are small tubes covered in coloured paper with a tiny firework inside that makes a small bang when two people pull them apart. Inside there is usually a small toy, a paper hat and a joke.
Rich: Christmas crackers - who came up with that idea?
Jack: Christmas crackers are brilliant. We all have Christmas crackers on Christmas Day just before we eat, don’t we?
Rich: We don’t they’re rubbish. Literally rubbish - little bits of paper and plastic and an awful joke.
Jack: The jokes are brilliant. I remember one from last year. Listen to this: How does a snowman get to work?
Rich: This is going to be awful. I don’t know, how does a snowman get to work?
Jack: Bicycle!!! Do you get it? By icicle. By bicycle. Bicycle.
Rich: Yes, yes. I get it. Please stop. And I suppose you pull your crackers and then the whole family sit around the dinner table wearing those silly paper hats.
Jack: Yes, of course, we do. It’s Christmas!
Rich: Coming in at number nine in our countdown of what British people do at Christmas is singing Christmas carols.
Jack: Christmas carols are songs that are sung at Christmas time. They are often sung in schools, churches and sometimes in public squares. People sometimes knock on people’s doors and sing carols for money.
Rich: Christmas carols. They are one of the worst things about Christmas. People who can’t sing … singing. Silent night, holy night ... please stop.
Jack: Lighten up! Christmas carols are brilliant and lovely. They bring people together.
Rich: OK, maybe if they are sung at church or if a local choir is singing them in a public place they can be nice but what about carol singers at my door. Come on!
Jack: It’s nice. Opening your door and there’s a group of people singing carols.
Rich: No, it’s not nice if I want to listen to carols I’ll turn on Spotify or something. Maybe I’m busy, maybe I’m watching a match. I could miss a goal or something when I answer the door.
Jack: You’re not a fan, then?
Rich: Number eight in our countdown of what British people do at Christmas is visiting family on Boxing Day.
Jack: Boxing Day is the 26th of December and is a public holiday in the UK. The Day is also known as St. Stephen’s Day. In the UK, the day is about shopping and sport.
Rich: Now we’re talking! Boxing Day is the best day over all the Christmas holidays for me.
Jack: Yes, it’s lovely. We often visit family. We go to see cousins and uncles we don’t get a chance to see for much of the year.
Rich: Oh, right! For me, it’s all about football! The Boxing Day fixtures in the Premier League are some of the best-attended matches of the season. My cousins are welcome to tag along and go to the match with me!
Jack: Coming in at number seven in our countdown of what British people do at Christmas is opening doors on advent calendars.
Rich: An advent calendar is a decoration you hang on the wall in December. They have twenty-four little doors in them which helps you countdown towards Christmas. Behind each door, there is often a picture or a chocolate. They are usually for children.
Jack: Advent calendars are brilliant. My kids love ours. Every morning they run down the stairs and open the new door. We’ve got this 3d calendar that reveals a new image every day. I love seeing how excited they are getting as Christmas gets nearer.
Rich: Mmm … sounds nice. We’ve got a chocolate advent calendar. My kids get up early eat their chocolates and then won’t eat their breakfast!
Jack: Right, next in the countdown is number six and it’s going to the pantomime.
Rich: A pantomime is a type of play that is performed at a theatre at Christmas time. It’s for all the family and is usually based around a fairy tale like Cinderella or Puss in Boots.
Jack: Pantomimes are brilliant. We go every year. They are so much fun. Everyone knows the story too and there's loads of audience participation.
Rich: Oh no! He’s behind you! Where is he? He’s behind you! I hate all that!
Jack: Oh no you don’t!
Rich: I’m not saying it.
Jack: And lots of the actors are celebrities too. It’s great seeing people who are normally on TV at your local theatre.
Rich: Coming in at number five in our countdown of what British people do at Christmas is decorating a Christmas tree.
Jack: A Christmas tree is a small pine tree or artificial tree that British people decorate and put in their houses at Christmas time.
Rich: We’ve got an artificial tree. We’ve had it for years. I get it down from the attic every year. We’ve got the same decorations too but we’ve lost a few of them over the years.
Jack: You’re so stingy. We get a real tree every year. We go and buy it from the garden centre. It’s still got its roots and everything and after Christmas, we plant it in the garden.
Rich: How many trees have you got in your garden then?
Jack: We moved this year so none yet. We decorate it together. We’ve got loads of decorations and we put lights on it too with a star at the top. It’s really pretty.
Rich: Right, we’ve reached number four in our countdown of what British people do at Christmas. Number four is going to see the Christmas lights.
Jack: All towns and cities in the UK put up special Christmas lights during the holidays. There are usually coloured lights and images of stars, Santas, bells, trees in all the main streets of a town centre and there’s usually a large Christmas tree in a public square.
Rich: Christmas lights? Come on! They’re just a marketing gimmick to get people to go shopping at Christmas time.
Jack: No, they’re not. They really make a town look nice and give a real Christmassy feel to a place. We went to watch the lights being turned on in our town. There were loads of people there.
Rich: Really? It’s cold and dark. It’s December! I do my shopping online!
Jack: Right, we’ve reached the top three in our countdown of what people in the UK do at Christmas and coming in at number three is eating Christmas dinner.
Rich: Christmas dinner is eaten between twelve and two on the afternoon of the 25th of December. Families sit down together and eat a big meal. Usually, people eat turkey with lots of vegetables and gravy and there is often Christmas pudding for dessert.
Jack: Christmas dinner. I love it and I’m always absolutely stuffed afterwards.
Rich: Do you have turkey?
Rich: I don’t get it. Why? How often do you eat turkey the rest of the year?
Jack: Not often I suppose.
Rich: Shouldn’t you eat your favourite meal at Christmas?
Jack: Erm …
Rich: I have chips. I love chips so I eat chips at Christmas.
Rich: Not really but I might this year! And Christmas pudding? What’s that all about? A fruit cake that you put a coin inside for luck and then you set fire to the cake. Weird. And don’t get me started on mince pies. Mince pies for dessert? Disgusting.
Jack: What do you have then? A bag of crisps?
Rich: I might this year.
Jack: Number two in our countdown of what people do in the UK at Christmas is giving presents.
Rich: Christmas presents are gifts that family and friends give each other at Christmas time. These are wrapped up and usually placed under the Christmas tree and opened on Christmas Day morning.
Jack: Christmas presents this was always the best bit about Christmas when you’re a kid. Getting presents!
Rich: You’re right. That’s what Christmas is all about. Getting as many Christmas presents as possible and then showing off to your friends what you got.
Jack: Er … I wouldn’t go that far.
Rich: But it’s much different now. I remember running downstairs on Christmas morning and ripping open all my present. My mum would always get annoyed because I couldn’t remember who had bought what for me.
Jack: Oh no we didn’t do that. We opened each present in turn so everyone could see what it was.
Rich: Oh I do that now. It’s awful. I’m very bad at receiving presents. I’m like oooh thank you very much, it’s just what I’ve always wanted - a pair of new socks!
Jack: You sound like fun on Christmas morning!
Jack: Right, we’ve reached the end of our Christmas countdown of what people in the UK do at Christmas time and it’s time to reveal the number one thing.
Rich: At number one of the things people do in the UK at Christmas time is pretending that Father Christmas exists.
Yes, it’s true. We all do it. Well, I say all. Everyone over the age of about ten does it.
Jack: You are so mean! What if a kid is listening?
Rich: They need to know sooner or later! Father Christmas aka Santa Claus aka Santa aka Saint Nick does not exist. There are not any little elves in the North Pole helping Santa wrap presents for children throughout the world and there is no magic sledge being pulled by flying reindeer on Christmas Eve.
Jack: Come on Rich - there’s nothing wrong with a little collective festive fantasy. Kids love it - even when they start to suspect that it might not be true.
Rich: Santa will not be coming down any chimneys either. Most people don’t have chimneys any more. Lots of people have gas fires. And anyway, he's a big fat man and would never fit down a chimney.
Jack: It’s all part of the magic of Christmas Rich.
Rich: I will not be leaving a carrot for Rudolph and a drink for Santa on my living room table. No one should write Christmas lists to Santa and put the North Pole on the envelope - it will never arrive. And if you happen to see a Santa in the street or a shopping centre I encourage you to pull his beard and run away!
Jack: OK, thank you, Rich. So, that’s our top ten completed. I’m going to put Rich somewhere quiet now until Christmas is over. Stop ranting!
Rich: I’m not ranting!
Jack: Merry Christmas!
Rich: This week’s task is to tell us about Christmas in your country or if you prefer a traditional festival in your country.
Jack: We’ve spoken about a few unusual customs in this week’s roleplay. We want you to tell us about a custom connected to a festival in your country that you think other listeners won’t know about.
Rich: Here are a few questions to help with the task:
Jack: Question 1: Do most people in your country celebrate Christmas?
Rich: Question 2: If you do, how will you celebrate Christmas this year?
Jack: Question 3: Can you tell us a traditional Christmas custom that is specific to your country?
Rich: Or, alternatively, can you tell us a custom connected to another festival or celebration that is specific to your country.
Jack: Write all your answers in the comments section on the Premier Skills English website.
Rich: And, write replies to other listeners to tell them what you think about their customs. Is it surprising? Did you know about it already?
Jack: OK, it’s time for this week’s football phrase.
Rich: It’s your turn this week, Jack. Are you ready?
Jack: I am ready with a festive football phrase. This week’s football phrase is a ********* *******. The first word is the festival we have been talking about in this week’s podcast and the second word is something we spoke about in the countdown. It’s the tube that is pulled open at the dinner table by people in the UK on Christmas Day. This word can also be used to describe something that is very good like a goal or a match. So, at this time of year, a match that finishes 4-3 or something like that can be described as a ********* *******.
Rich: If you listened to the countdown you will definitely get it right!
Jack: Before we leave you we need to tell you last week’s football phrase. The answer was a bargain buy.
Rich: Right, that’s all we have time for this week! Don’t forget to write your answers to our questions and make a guess at our football phrase in the comments below. If you get it right, we’ll announce your name on next week’s show.
Jack: Bye for now, enjoy your football and Merry Christmas!
How much did you understand?
In the podcast, Rich and Jack used a few difficult words and phrases. Do you know the words in bold?
Lighten up! Christmas carols are brilliant and lovely. They bring people together.
My cousins are welcome to tag along and go to the match with me!
Pantomimes are so much fun. Everyone knows the story too and there's loads of audience participation.
We’ve had our Christmas tree for years. I get it down from the attic every year.
Come on! Christmas lights are just a marketing gimmick to get people to go shopping at Christmas time.
There aren't any little elves in the North Pole helping Santa wrap presents and there is no magic sledge being pulled by flying reindeer on Christmas Eve.
Try the activity below, then, listen to the podcast again to hear how we used the words. This can really help your understanding.
In this week's podcast, Jack and Rich gave you the top ten things that people do in the UK at Christmas time. Jack and Rich did no research into this list and it's just a bit of fun but we hope that it gives you an idea of what many British people do during the Christmas holidays. Here is Rich and Jack's top ten:
Pulling Christmas crackers
Singing Christmas carols
Visiting family on Boxing Day
Opening doors on Advent calendars
Going to the pantomime
Decorating a Christmas tree
Going to see the Christmas lights
Eating Christmas dinner
Getting (and giving) Christmas presents
Pretending Father Christmas exists
In this podcast, Jack and Rich gave you a top ten of things people do at Christmas time in the UK. Which thing did you find most interesting? Which did you find the strangest?
Your task this week is to tell us about a Christmas custom in your country or a custom connected to another celebration. You need to choose a custom that is specific to your country that other listeners may not know about. Here are some questions to help you:
- Do most people in your country celebrate Christmas?
- If you do, how will you celebrate Christmas this year?
- Can you tell us a traditional (Christmas) custom that is specific to your country?
Write your answers in the comments section below and don't forget to make a guess at this week's football phrase!
Merry Christmas from Jack and Rich!