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An intermediate level English resource on  British life 

England at Christmas

Christmas 2020 is going to be different. Covid-19 is changing the way we live, and in particular the way we celebrate. This year there will still be Christmas puddings, roast turkey, and presents; but there will be fewer parties, fewer holidays, fewer visits, and fewer celebrations. For some people, it will be very different. Normally, Christmas is the biggest festival of the year in Britain, and it has been like this for very many years.
christmas market
A Christmas market in an English city

 The biggest festival in the year

        Christmas is normally the biggest festival in the English year. Once the festival lasted two days, today it seems to last almost two months. Christmas Day, December 25th, is  the day when most people in Britain sit down to a special meal of roast turkey and Christmas pudding; but Christmas Day is just the high point of the "Christmas period".
    In the weeks before Christmas, life is very busy. There are parties; there are trips to the cinema or the pantomime; and of course there's all the shopping.
    On Christmas day, Britain closes! For most people, Christmas is a time to relax  at last  after many long and busy weeks. The presents have been bought and sent, dozens of cards have been sent and received, the food is waiting to be eaten. For two days at least (if not three or four, depending on the year), the shops will be shut, and the postman will not deliver any letters. For a day or two, even the trains stop running.

    Nowadays, Britain's Christmas shopping season lasts almost four months! The first  Christmas catalogues come through letter-boxes at the start of September!
    Lots of busy people like shopping online, because it is easy. All they have to do is choose from the pages of a colourful catalogue, or shop on the Internet. A few days later, goods are delivered to the door..... or at least one hopes they are. Some Internet shops work 24/24 in the weeks before Christmas, to make sure that everyone gets their presents on time..
    Many Christmas catalogues come from charities. Each charity has its own specialities – nature and animals from WWF, the RSPCA and others; "green" products from Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth; and hand-made articles from developing countries from charities like Oxfam and Save the Children. Big charities like these earn a lot of money from their Christmas catalogues.
Christmas shopping
Christmas shopping
    In the streets, Christmas arrives at the start of November. Santa Claus and Christmas decorations start appearing in shop windows soon after "Guy Fawkes Night" (5th November). There are no other festivities between Guy Fawkes Night and Christmas
    In the streets, vendors sell Father Christmas hats, and reindeer horns! Many shops need extra staff; some shops sell as much in November and December as they do in the other 10 months of the year. Shops stay open later in the evening, and on Sundays too.
    During December, sometimes even earlier, the Christmas lights come on in the streets, and the big shops put on special "Christmas windows", to bring in the shoppers. As Christmas gets closer, the shops become more and more crowded. Nowadays, many shops start their "New Year Sales" before Christmas; some people therefore wait till the last days, in order to pay less for their presents.

    When the shops finally close for the holiday, most people are happy that the shopping is over. For a day at least, everything is shut... except pubs and restaurants, which do a lot of business on Christmas day (though not in 2020, on account of Covid 19). In the past, most people used to go to church on Christmas morning; today some people go to church for a special
Christmas service, but most stay at home to open presents and prepare the Christmas lunch.
    In the afternoon, it's time for more presents, or to watch a good film, or go our for a walk in the country, or in the park.
    Then, after Christmas, the shopping season starts again, as people spend their Christmas money and look for bargains in the New Year sales.
    Most people have a week's holiday between Christmas and the New Year. Some, of course, have to keep working; but for most, the last week of the year is a time to relax, enjoy more parties, and do a bit more shopping.
    January sometimes seems very flat and empty!

Word guide
special offer, special cheap price - busy: very occupied - charity: benevolent association, non-profit association - closer: nearer - crowded : full of people, busy - deliver: bring - faith : religion, belief  - goods: articles - last: continue - over : finished - pantomime: theatrical comedy - reindeer: an animal used by Father Christmas - RSPCA: Britain's animal protection society -  Sales: when shops sell things more cheaply - Santa Claus: Father Christmas  - service: mass - staff: employees - trip: journey, excursion - turkey: a big bird.

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Read more : Christmas shopping in England   and more Ths story of Christmas cards (with interactive exercises)

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Student Worksheet

Christmas in England

Comprehension/expression: Answer the following questions, based on this article:

    1.    What do people eat at Christmas in England ?
    2.    What do people send to their friends at Christmas?
    3.    Some people do their shopping at home: how and why do they do this?
    4.    Why is Christmas a good time for many big charities?
    5.    When does the Christmas shopping season really begin?
    6.    How do shops function during the Christmas shopping period?
    7.    When do the "New Year Sales" begin?
    8.    How long do Christmas holidays last for many people?
    9.    What do people do during their Christmas holiday period?

Interactive exercise :  fill in on screen or on paper.
Verb forms and tenses :  replace the missing verbs in this extract, using the right forms and tenses:
    At Christmas time, Britain  ! For most people, Christmas is a time to relax  at last  after many long and busy weeks. The presents  been  and  , dozens of cards have    and  , the food  to be  . For two days at least (if not three or four, depending on the year), the shops     shut, and the postman  not  any letters. For a day or two, even the trains     .

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Originally published in Horizon, the low-intermediate level English newsmagazine.
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Readability - Fairly easy. Flesch-Kincaid Grade level: 7 
Reading ease level:  72.4
CEF LEVEL :  B2 - intermediate
IELTS Level :  5-6
Christmas pudding
The traditional Christmas pudding is
set alight with brandy before serving

You can buy a traditional English Christmas Pudding online from the British Corner Store, for worldwide delivery

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xmas shopping
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