In both the United Kingdom and South Africa, Christmas is celebrated with gusto and enthusiasm. It’s a very festive time of year and it will be hard not to be swept up in the energy and fun. My suggestion is to enjoy the time when people are bound to be happy and relaxed to try and engage with them and to practise your English. Below are some useful English expressions to be used during the Christmas period:

  1. Merry Christmas is one of the most useful phrases you can learn. It can safely be used in most situations as it is quite neutral. It is very often combined with and a Happy New Year to wish someone well for the entire festive season.
  2. Season’s Greetings is another neutral expression, once again used for the time from Christmas (the 25th of December) to after New Year’s Day (the 1st of January).
  3. Santa Clause or Father Christmas is a bearded old man dressed in red, who is seen as one of the symbols of Christmas. He is said to live in the North Pole and is helped by elves to bring gifts for children on Christmas Day.
  4. Another Christmas tradition is one of decorating a Christmas tree. This is traditionally a conifer tree of some sorts but now many people use artificial trees now. The tree is decorated with ornaments and Christmas gifts are laid beneath it for opening on Christmas Day.
  5. As with most traditions, Christmas food is a very large part of the Christmas celebration. Some foods that are common in the UK and South Africa are gingerbread (this can be in the form of figures or even houses), roasted ham (meat is a very large part of a Christmas meal), Christmas pudding (a fruit pudding soaked in alcohol) and trifle (a layered fruit dessert with custard and cake), to name a few.

If you are going to be learning English over the Christmas period in Oxford or Cape Town, make sure to explore some of the traditions and foods each city has to offer. This is after all one of the greatest parts of learning English in another country, and one of the best ways to engage with locals. Enjoy!