< Expressions for Celebrating the Holidays
By Anna Matteo
24 December 2022

And now, Words and Their Stories, from VOA Learning English.

December is a special month when many people celebrate holidays around the world.

There is the Winter Solstice celebration called Dongzhi in China and Toji in Japan. Jewish people celebrate eight days of Hanukkah. And African American culture has seven days of Kwanzaa that ends on New Year's Day.

The Christmas Tree in Rockefeller Plaza is seen during the Lighting ceremony in New York City on November 30, 2022. (Photo by KENA BETANCUR / AFP)
The Christmas Tree in Rockefeller Plaza is seen during the Lighting ceremony in New York City on November 30, 2022. (Photo by KENA BETANCUR / AFP)

In many places around the world, today is a holiday – Christmas!

So, we will talk about holiday expressions that you can use in American English.

Let's start with the holiday spirit.

If you are in the holiday spirit, you feel good about holidays and are looking forward to them. Some people get into the holiday spirit weeks, even months before the actual holiday.

However, for some people, the holiday season can be a sad time. Or some people just do not like holidays. If you are not really into holidays, for whatever reason, you can say, "I'm not really in the holiday spirit."

But let's say you love holidays and are in the holiday spirit. If you get invited to some special holiday events, you can say you'll be there with bells on. For example, if I invite you to a holiday party or dinner, you can say, "Thanks! I'll be there with bells on!"

This doesn't mean that you will actually wear bells. It means you are very excited to attend the event. However, if you want to wear bells... well, you can do that too!

The expression I'll be there with bells on does not have to be used just for a holiday party. For example, let's say you are invited to a birthday party, you can also say you'll be there with bells on.

Now for better or worse, gift-giving is a big part of many holidays. So, let's talk about some expressions that come from gift-giving.

Sometimes the best things in life are very small and simple. For those things you can say, good things come in small packages.

This expression means you should not judge a gift, or anything, based on its size. Many smaller items may be of high quality or value.

For Christmas in the United States, many people put gifts under the Christmas tree. But some people also have stockings for small, less costly gifts and sweets. They stuff these stockings with them. So, the gifts are called stocking stuffers!

Many workplaces celebrate the holidays with gift-giving. But who has the money to buy gifts for all their coworkers? Not many.

That is why we use Secret Santa for gift-giving with a large group. Everyone in the group picks the name of one other person. That is the person you buy a gift for, and you become their Secret Santa.

It is also common for large families or large friend groups to have a Secret Santa. It saves everyone money and it is a lot of fun.

Many children who celebrate Christmas are warned that Santa is watching them throughout the year. If they are good, they go on the nice list. If they are bad they go on the naughty list.

Naughty means your behavior is a little bad. And parents tell children that those on the naughty list will not get any gifts or they will get something they don't want, like a lump of coal in their stockings.

So, if you are on Santa's naughty list, do not expect to get anything nice under the tree. You will just get a lump of coal in your stocking.

And that's all the time we have for this Words and Their Stories.

Until next year ... I'm Anna Matteo!

Anna Matteo wrote this lesson for VOA Learning English.


Words in This Story

Winter Solstice – n. the point in the sky occupied by the sun on or about December 22d when winter begins in the northern hemisphere : the December solstice

bell – n. a hollow usually cup-shaped metallic device that makes a ringing sound when struck

package – n. a small or medium-sized pack : a covering wrapper or container

stocking – n. a usually knit close-fitting covering for the foot and leg

stuff – v. to fill by packing things in

lump – n. a piece or mass of indefinite size and shape

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