Free Resources for Students and Teachers of English as a Foreign Language in China - by Paul Sparks

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Paul Sparks, Sino-Canadian International College, Guangxi University, Online English Lesson Plans, Lesson Material and Ideas for Reading Lessons...



Reading Exercise: Christmas

INSTRUCTIONS: Read the following article using the vocabulary list provided. Answer the questions based on the article.


Christmas, the most joyous of American holidays, is celebrated on December 25th to commemorate the birth of Jesus Christ. Almost all workers have Christmas Day off, and students have a two to three week vacation for Christmas and New Year.

Early Puritans, settlers who came to America in the 1600's, disliked the Christmas holiday and did not celebrate it. Celebrating Christmas became popular in the nineteenth century, after many German and Irish immigrants had come to America.

Today, people might start saving for Christmas in September or even in August. However, the Christmas season really starts right after Thanksgiving. Street lights and store windows are decorated in the traditional Christmas colors of red and green.

Snowmen, Santa Clauses, and Nativity scenes appear in many shop windows. Many people decorate their homes with colored lights, and evergreens, Christmas trees, holly wreaths, and mistletoe are common sights.

Young men enjoy mistletoe very much, because they can kiss any girl they find standing under it. Thus many fraternities hang mistletoe at the entrance, and some young men carry a piece of mistletoe with them and hold it above the head of whichever girl they want to kiss.

People send Christmas cards to their families, relatives, friends and business customers. They may put the cards that they have received on the wall, the mantle, or hang them on a string, as Christmas cards are very colorful and beautiful.

During the Christmas season, Christmas carols are heard all over, on radio, on TV, in church, and at school. Following an English tradition, many people walk from house to house singing traditional carols, such as "Joy to the World," "Silent Night," and "Oh Come, All Ye Faithful."

Many people do Christmas shopping in December. They look for nice gifts for their family, relatives, and friends. It is said that stores make one quarter of all their sales during the Christmas season.

Most shopping centers have huge crowds before Christmas. There is often a nice Christmas tree, and usually a man dressed in a Santa Claus suit. Small children tell him what they want for Christmas.

Many people hold Christmas parties before Christmas. The guests drink, eat, and dance surrounded by Christmas decorations. A typical drink served at Christmas parties is eggnog, which is made of eggs, milk, sugar and sometimes rum.

Small children hang stockings near the fireplace, hoping that Santa Claus will fill them with candy and toys. They believe that Santa Claus, who wears red suit and hat and has a beard, comes in a sleigh pulled by eight reindeer and visits each house, coming in through the chimney, bringing gifts to children.

Some people may go to Colorado for skiing or Florida for sunbathing during the Christmas holidays. Many people celebrate Christmas at home and in church. Many families go to church on Christmas Eve or Christmas morning.

On Christmas Eve or Christmas morning, family members gather around the Christmas tree and open the Christmas gifts that are piled under the tree.

Early Christmas afternoon, they sit down for a traditional Christmas dinner. They enjoy turkey or ham, sweet potatoes, vegetables, cranberry sauce, nuts, fruitcake, plum pudding, and mince pie. They may invite their family, relatives, and friends.


commemorate: give honor to the memory of

Puritans: members of a religious group in England and New England in the 16th and 17th centuries that wished to make religion simpler and opposed the use of ceremony in church services

snowmen: figures of men made out of snow

Nativity scenes: scenes showing the infant Jesus, his parents, and those who came to visit him, in the stable where he was born

evergreens: trees that do not lose their leaves in winter

holly: a small tree with dark green, shiny, prickly leaves and red berries

wreaths: circles of flowers or leaves twisted together

mistletoe: a plant with small, waxy white berries, that grows high in trees

fraternities: societies of men or boys joined by a common interest, especially such an organization in high schools and colleges

mantle: top and sides of a fireplace

carols: religious songs of joy and praise, especially sung at Christmas

Ye: old form of "you"

rum: an alcoholic drink made from sugar cane, etc.

sleigh: vehicle which slides on snow on two metal blades

reindeer: a kind of large deer with long, branching horns

sunbathing: spending time in strong sunlight, sitting or Iying, in order to make the body brown

ham: salted and smoked meat from the upper part of a pig's hind leg

cranberry: firm, sour, dark red berry that grows on low shrubs

mince: a mixture of chopped apples, raisins, fat, spices and sometimes meat

Skimming Exercise

1. Who do people send Christmas cards to?

2. What do you hear in many places during the Christmas season?

3. When do people go Christmas shopping?

4. Do people have a traditional Christmas dinner in the afternoon, or in the evening?

Comprehension Questions

1. When did Christmas become popular in the United States?

2. Who brought the Christmas celebration to America?

3. What are traditional Christmas colors?

4. How can you tell when the Christmas season has started?

5. What might a young man do with a piece of mistletoe if he wants to kiss a girl?

6. Where do people put the Christmas cards they receive?

7. What portion of their sales are stores said to make during the Christmas season?

8. What is a typical drink for Christmas parties?

9. Where do small children hang stockings? Why?

10. What is served for a traditional Christmas dinner?

True/False Exercise

1.    Few workers have a holiday on Christmas Day. True / False

2.    Puritans came to America in the 1600's and started celebrating Christmas.
       True / False

3.    When Thanksgiving is over, the Christmas season begins. True / False

4.    If they have a piece of mistletoe, young men can kiss any girl. True / False

5.    "Silent Night," and "Oh Come, All Ye Faithful" are all traditional Christmas carols.  
       True / False

6.    Many people go Christmas shopping in December, because gifts are cheaper than
       in other months. True / False

7.    Christmas parties are usually held on Christmas Day, and the guests drink, eat,
       and dance surrounded by Christmas decorations. True / False

8.    People spend their Christmas holiday in different ways; some stay home and others
       travel. True / False

9.    Christmas gifts are opened by family members around the Christmas tree.
       True / False

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