Helping Learners Understand Spoken English

Christmas Traditions

Christmas is around the corner! Do you celebrate Christmas? Do you have a favorite holiday tradition?

around the corner: very near, happening soon

The older I get, the less into traditional celebrations I am. The pandemic is not helping matters.

to be into something: to be really interested in or to like doing something

to not help matters: to not make a situation better, to make a situation difficult or worse

When I was a child, I loved Christmas, but as an adult it can sometimes be a bit stressful. I still visit family when I can, but it’s not possible every year due to travel restrictions.

Winter vacation plans audio file
(plus 2 PDF: transcript + transcript with comments)
at my Ko-fi shop

American Christmas Culture

While Christmas is a religious holiday, most of the people I know who celebrate it don’t really talk about that aspect of Christmas. Of course, there are some who do things related to religion. Their Christmas traditions often include going to church and decorating their homes with a nativity set.

nativity set: a set of figures displayed at Christmas that depicts the birth of Jesus

In the United States, Christmas has become very commercialized. With this comes stress. Many Christmas traditions require people to shop. This typically begins on Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, when stores have big discounts to entice people to start shopping.

entice: attract or tempt by offering some advantage

People try to find the perfect gift for their loved ones. They spend a lot of time and money decorating and cooking a large meal for family and/or friends. On top of that, the days are getting shorter and many people struggle with depression during the holidays. For those who have lost a loved one, this time of year can be particularly challenging.

on top of that: additionally, furthermore

Christmas Traditions

What Christmas traditions do you enjoy? As a child, Christmas was one of my favorite holidays. I loved helping decorate the Christmas tree and waking up on Christmas morning. And yes, we left milk and cookies out for Santa Claus. I admit, I was a snoopy child. I often snuck into my mother’s closet searching for my presents.

snoopy: curious and likely to snoop
snoop: investigate or look around secretly in order to discover things or find information

While my parents did not have a lot of money, they somehow managed to always have plenty of presents under the tree for me. It was an exciting time!

Gathering with Relatives

After opening presents at home on Christmas day, we would go to my grandmother’s house for a big meal with my grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. All the kids would get presents from the adults. Sometimes the adults would exchange gifts through a Secret Santa, Yankee Swap, or White Elephant gift exchange game. If you want to learn more, you can read about 6 different gift exchange methods here: Yankee Swap vs. White Elephant vs. Dirty Santa

There would be tons of food. We would eat turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, ham, cranberry sauce (I like the canned kind best!), and rolls. Of course, there were also vegetables, like green beans and corn. Often, someone would make a casserole too. And, we can’t forget dessert! Apple pie was my favorite.

One of my other favorite Christmas activities was driving around and looking at Christmas lights. We would go to a nice neighborhood where everyone decorated their houses. Some of them were really amazing. Most town centers were also beautifully decorated with lights and a large tree. And how could I forget going to the mall to have my picture taken with Santa Claus?! I still have Polaroid pictures of me with Santa Claus from every year of my childhood until I was ten or eleven years old.

House decorated with Christmas lights
Image source

Winter Plans Listening Practice

To help you with your listening (and speaking!) skills, I have created an audio recording of a conversation related to winter vacation plans.

While most of my students can understand me when I speak English, they find listening to conversations in English to be challenging. There is a lot of advice out there about how to improve your listening skills, but what has worked best for me when studying Korean is listening to conversations in Korean. Podcasts are a great way to do this. Another way is to find a recording of a natural conversation. As a visual learner, a transcript helps me improve my listening and vocabulary.

transcript: a written or printed copy of recorded material

An explanation of some of the vocabulary is also very helpful. I often search for things like this for my students, but I usually come up short.

to come up short: fail to achieve an expectation or goal

Because it can be such valuable listening practice, I’ve decided to create some natural conversations for you to practice and improve your listening. I got together with a friend, and we talked about our plans for the winter holidays. If you’d like to listen in on our conversation, you can find an audio file and PDF transcripts of the conversation on my Ko-fi page. Spoiler alert: We don’t talk about Christmas.

Downloadable audio and transcript available at my Ko-fi shop

Ready for some listening practice?
Looking for a Christmas present for an English learner?
Head over to my Ko-fi shop and grab the downloadable audio file and PDFs.

Never stop learning!
– Trey