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Christmas Shopping

Beautiful Christmas window displays are one way shops get into the Christmas spirit. Amandeep goes to Fortnum & Mason to see the work that goes into the displays and find out more about Christmas shopping.


Before you watch

Think about the following questions:

  • What do shops in your country put in their windows?
  • Have you heard of any British shops?
  • Where do British Christmas traditions come from?

Now watch Amandeep visit Fortnum & Mason...


Christmas shopping in London. There’s nowhere like it in the world. When the West End Christmas lights go on and the big shops reveal their special Christmas window displays, it’s time for the festivities to begin.

Fortnum & Mason, here in Piccadilly, has been selling the finer things in life around the world for over three hundred years.

From chocolates to china, luxury goods are what Fortnum & Mason specialise in. And Christmas is their busiest time of the year.


Today’s an important day. Parts of the Christmas window display have just arrived. Everything needs to be put in place. It’s a difficult job getting all of the items into the windows.

Paul Symes is the head of visual presentation and the creative force behind the Fortnum & Mason Christmas window display.

Amandeep: This is so exciting, Paul. You’ve allowed us behind the scenes in your Christmas shop window. Now tell me about your design this year.

Paul: It’s all about dancing, burlesque, theatre, shows and glamour and style.

Amandeep: And what are the challenges involved in designing something to this scale?

Paul: One of the challenges is trying to get it all to fit. There’s so much that you want to say and it’s trying to get it small enough to fit into just seven windows.

Amandeep: So, Paul, you’re about to reveal your Christmas shop window. How nervous are you?

Paul: Very, very. I start getting nervous about a week before. A lot of effort goes into making sure that when we finally pull the curtains up, everyone’s happy.


The Christmas story dates back two thousand years, but the way it's celebrated has changed a lot over time. Many Christmas traditions are actually quite recent. Fortnum & Mason have seen Christmas fashions change over the centuries. Archivist Dr Andrea Tanner is interested in the history of the store.

Amandeep: Andrea, when did Christmas shopping become such an important tradition?

Andrea: Well, in Britain, it really came with the Victorian era. It was when Queen Victoria married her German prince, Prince Albert, and he brought lots of Christmas traditions to Britain.

Amandeep: What’s your biggest selling Christmas item?

Andrea: It’s a hamper. A hamper is a basket in which you find wonderful Christmas foods and drinks and we expect to sell around seven and a half thousand of those.


It’s almost time for the big moment. The windows are finally going to be revealed.

Man 1: It’s going to make people stop and stare.

Woman 1: I think they’re fabulous, but they always are.

Woman 2: It’s absolutely beautiful. It’s beautiful.

Amandeep: It’s a huge success and I’m starting to feel festive. Now where’s my Christmas list? Better start some shopping.

Task 1

Task 2

Task 3

In the documentary, the presenter uses the present perfect continuous: 'Fortnum and Mason has been selling the finer things in life for over 300 years.' We use this form to describe activities which started in the past and continue to the present moment.



Language level

Intermediate: B1
Upper intermediate: B2



I liked the video because Christmas is my favorite season of the year.

Thank you!

Hello, Team!

I have one grammary question on the Perfect tenses.
In the exercise 3 we have the sentence:
"Our family have been living in this village for nearly 200 years."
It's ok and completely clear to me if the family still live in the same village now.

But what grammatical construction should I use, if the family doesn't already live in this village?

Should it be the past perfect continuos? E.g.. "Our family had been living in this village for nearly 200 years" (I mean, before it's moved somewhere else).

Or maybe the past perfect continuos anyway? E.g.. ""Our family have been living in this village for nearly 200 years before it's moved to London."

Or maybe past simple / past continuous - "Our family lived / was living in this village for nearly 200 years before it's moved to London."?

Hell Yshc,

If you are talking about the family and it is not in the context of a story or narrative then the past simple is the best option:

Our family lived in this village for nearly 200 years before moving away.

If the sentence is part of a narrative in the past then the past perfect would be appropriate:

Our family had been living in this village for nearly 200 years when the earthquake struck.


Other forms are possible, of course, but it's not possible for us to list all of the possible choices in all of the many contexts which you might have. If there is a particular concept you wish to express then we'll be happy to help, of course.



The LearnEnglish Team

Hello everyone,
I think in my country the shops are trying to display in the windows the same things that they display in the UK,but now it depends what kind of shop it is,most of them their display their items that you can find in that shop.And they're nice decorated to attract as much people as they can.And the goods are decorated with colorful tinsel,and Father Christmas with his reindeers.
I have visited some British shops like Marks & Spencer, Morrison's.Mark & Spencer it was a shop that sells items like clothes and food and drinks and decorations for the house. and Morrison's as far as I know that is a shop like a grocery store which sells food fresh food vegetables,and almost all Goods that you need in the house.
to be honest I don't know where the tradition Christmas comes from in the UK but as I saw here in this episode they say comes from the Victorian era,or maybe is better to say in that period became more traditional.
Even if it's not Christmas. This episode brings me back some memories about the Christmas and I'm getting excited thinking about what kind of presents I will look for, for my family this year.

Shops put in their windows items that make us want to buy, or something beautiful, illuminated and attractive.
I don't know where British Christmas traditions come from.

Good afternoon, Team!
Could you, please, help me to find correct translation of word "scale".
What does it means in this sentence "And what are the challenges involved in designing something to this scale?"
Because i could not find it.
Thanks a lot for your help!
Best regards, Anastasia.

Hello Anastasia,

I'd recommend looking through the different meanings in the Cambridge Dictionary entry for 'scale'. In this case, I'd say it's probably the 'SIZE' meaning, though it could also possibly be 'MEASURE'.

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

Hi Team. Help me with these, please..
Paul : Very, very. I start getting nervous about a week before.
Shouldn't Pual say : "I started getting" than "I start getting"?
I remember what Rob said :
"absolutely + strong adjective"
What about this one :
Woman 2 : It's absolutely beautiful, it's beautiful.
Does 'beautiful' include a strong adjective?
Would you like to explain, please?
Thank you.