Your English Guide to Christmas


​In this article, we take a quick trip through history to see the origins of Christmas and discuss what it means to us today over two thousand years later. ​If you're good, ​you might even get some Christmas vocabulary gifts!​


Where it all began

As the name suggests, Christmas goes all the way back to the birth of Jesus Christ.

The traditional Christmas story is spoken about in the New Testament - the second part of the Christian Bible. It follows Jesus' parents, Mary and Joseph, as they enter the city of Bethlehem and try to find a place to stay. All the inns (small hotels) were full, but they were allowed to stay in one inn's stable - the place where the horses sleep.

On this night, Jesus was born.

They were soon visited by the Three Kings or Three Wise Men, who had travelled from far away following the light of a star, and came with gifts for Jesus.

Two thousand years later

Today, we see Christmas Day (25th Dec) celebrated as a major festival and public holiday in many countries with both high and low Christian populations.

Each year, you'll see all kinds of Christmas traditions like:

  • the Nativity play - a performance acting out the story of the birth of Christ
  • carol singing - public performances of Christian hymns (songs)
  • a feast - a family get-together involving a large meal with a range of traditional dishes depending on the country
  • card sending - written cards that are sent to family and friends to wish them well
  • gift giving - exchanging presents ​with family and friends
Christmas Tree
  • decorations - Christmas trees with lights, wreaths, holly and mistletoe are all popular

a wreath





So what about the fa​t guy in red?

Father Christmas / Santa Claus

There are many different stories of where Father Christmas or Santa Claus (or just Santa) comes from, but the name 'Santa Claus' is from the Dutch name for Saint Nicholas, who was a Greek bishop known for his gift giving. The popular images we see today were developed a hundred years ago in New York, America.

In countries that celebrate Christmas, children 'who have been good this year' will be expecting Father Christmas to come down their chimney on Christmas Eve (the day before Christmas Day), eat the milk and cookies left out for him by the family and leave presents in stockings for the kids to open in the morning.

Christmas stockings

Christmas stockings

Poor Santa has a lot of houses to visit in one night, but luckily for him (and us) he has a group of flying reindeer that help pull his sleigh through the night.

Santa's sleigh

Santa ​in his sleigh being pulled by reindeer

​​What presents do you hope to see under your Christmas tree this year? Let us know by leaving a comment below.

  • Jeffrey says:

    Thanks for the article! Very useful information for this time of year!

  • Jola says:

    Oh..we all have been given a lot of gifts this year I suppose,couse we have been so good all year didn’t we??? We worked laboriously,we learned English language and we did our best 😉 and this way we deserved all those books, cosmetics, jewellery etc. founded under the Christmas tree.Not even mention that kisses under the mistletoe. I hope your holidays were both calmly and funny, relaxing and inspiring at the same time. And I’d like to wish you all the best for the post-holidays time as well and Happy New Year

    • Hugh says:

      Thanks so much, Jola. Oh yes, it sounds like you deserve a few pressies from Santa! Best wishes for a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

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