An intermediate level English resource on British life
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Christmas in England
A Christmas market in an English city
The biggest festival in the yearChristmas 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, and many people eat too much ! 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.
This year however there will be less Christmas shopping for many people. Charities and food-banks will be working hard to offer a "happy Christmas" to the millions of people in Britain who are finding it hard to make ends meet.
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 easier. 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.
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. Most 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. This year there will be less lights, because the cost of electricity has gone up. As Christmas gets closer, the shops become more and more crowded. Nowadays, a few big 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. 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!
bargain: 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 - food-bank: a place where volunteers offer free or very cheap food to people who have no money - goods: articles - last: continue - make ends meet: have enough money to pay for their needs - 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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Christmas in England
Interactive exercises : fill in on screen or on paper.
1. Comprehension and expression:
Answer the following questions, based on this article. Write as much as you want; boxes will expand to take whatever you write.
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?
2. Verb forms and tenses :
Replace the missing verbs in this extract, using the right forms and tenses: boses will expand to accept the text that you type. After you have filled everything in, you can select the whole exercise, with your answers, and paste it into another document or send to your teacher.
Teachers:Grammar: Quantifiers - Note the use of less and fewer, many, more, much and most, as well as some and any in this article. Generally speaking less is used with uncountable nouns, fewer with countable nouns, though it is not always the case. For more on this see Rossiter Problem words in English section 8 Fewer or less?
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Originally published in Horizon, the low-intermediate level English newsmagazine.
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