It's the time of year for Santa Claus, fairy lights and all the best pop songs. What are the essential elements of Christmas in the UK?


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It's that time of the year for family, friends … and cheesy Christmas music. For many people, Christmas is quite simply (as an old pop song says) 'the most wonderful time of the year'. For others, it is an exhausting exercise in bad taste. So what does a British Christmas involve?

Special days

Christmas is a celebration that lasts for several days. In the UK and many other countries, the main celebration takes place on Christmas Day (25 December). From the Christian origins of the holiday, this day marks the birth of Jesus Christ. Christmas Eve (24 December) is the time for last-minute shopping and preparations, present-wrapping and maybe a drink in the pub. Others will be at home preparing food for the big day or at a midnight church service to welcome Christmas Day. Boxing Day (26 December) is also a national holiday in the UK – a necessary one for many, to recover after eating too much the day before! Shops are usually open on Boxing Day and the big after-Christmas sales begin.


From huge cities to tiny villages, the month of December sees buildings and streets covered in coloured lights, red ribbons and smiling Santa Claus faces. People also decorate their houses (and sometimes their gardens) for the Christmas period. The most famous decoration is, of course, the Christmas tree – a pine tree covered in little shiny decorations and fairy lights. Some people put a nativity scene in their house. This is a collection of little figures who represent the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem. 

Family and friends

Christmas is a time to be with the people you love. Often, this involves travelling to your hometown to be with parents, siblings, cousins, old friends, etc. For some households, it's the only time of the year when all the family is together. In the UK, this is usually a time for chats, cups of tea and watching Christmas films together. However, it can also lead to occasional family tension. But don't worry: there are plenty of impossibly cheerful pop songs to help everyone relax!


Christmas meals vary across households, but the most common Christmas dinner in the UK is a roasted turkey with vegetables and potatoes. This may be accompanied by stuffing (made with bread, onions and herbs) and pigs in blankets (sausages wrapped in bacon or pastry). And, of course, delicious mince pies – little sweet cakes with fruit inside. This is, of course, fantastic if someone is cooking for you. If you're the cook, you may feel under a little pressure as the extended family start arriving for dinner!


Christmas is certainly the most wonderful time of the year for retailers! The days and weeks before Christmas are characterised by frantic shopping for presents. Many groups of friends or workmates take part in a 'Secret Santa' group. This is where each person buys a small present for one other person in the group, but the identity of the giver is never revealed. In many countries, Christmas Eve is a night for kids to go to bed early before their house is visited by Santa Claus, a magic man in a red suit who leaves presents for all the kids in the house.


Apart from dinner at home with family or friends, Christmas is also a time for parties. At school, children often do a Christmas theatre performance or sing Christmas carols in a concert, then have a party with sweets and cakes. For adults, most workplaces usually have their Christmas 'do'. This can be a dinner in a restaurant or just a few drinks in a bar. At workplace parties, many romances have started under the mistletoe, a special plant which people hang from the ceiling. If you meet somebody under the mistletoe, the tradition is to kiss that person. 

However you celebrate Christmas, for many it's a time for having fun and spending time with the people you love. Plastic decorations and neon Santa Claus faces might be considered to be in bad taste by some people, but without them, it simply wouldn't be Christmas.


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Submitted by marlosleles on Sun, 18/12/2022 - 13:30


I don't celebrate Christimas, but it's a beautiful time.

Submitted by 1Enginner on Fri, 16/12/2022 - 16:15


Hi guys, This text really well is prepared for readers. Christmas Day usually dont celebrate in my country. instead of this people gives gift to each others in 31 December at night. I understood from text that now people dont remember mean of Christmas.

Hello 1Enginner,

Yes, it's true that for many people Christmas in not a religious holiday, though of course that is how it began.

You might enjoy having a look at our Learning hub pages on Christmas, where you can see some short videos as well.

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by jyoti Chaudhary on Tue, 03/05/2022 - 13:56


Do you celebrate Christmas? If so, how is your celebration different from what is described in the text?

yes, I celebrate Christmas day because this day my father was born we celebrate my father's birthday by decorating our house and purchase gift and enjoy with our family together

Submitted by May Sabai Phyu on Sun, 20/02/2022 - 09:18


Although I'm Buddhism, I like Christmas. When I was a university student, I took part in the celebration of Christmas. We sang Christmas carols in front of the hostel and the warden of the hostel fed us with snacks and drinks. It's so cheerful.

Submitted by Susan Celis on Wed, 16/02/2022 - 02:36


I celebrate it with my family. Before midnight, we go to a bakery to bake a chicken. Afterwards, we had dinner together and toasted with champagne.

Submitted by ImmaLemonnyyy on Tue, 04/01/2022 - 14:53


It's a different celebrartion in my country, called Hanukka. It's the closest holiday we have in its date to Christmas. Although some do celebrate it in Israel (not Jews), and there are some beautiful places decorated for Christmas, it isn't really a part of the country like it is in the UK.
I've been in some of the places with Christmas decorations in here, and they are either really lame or really spectacular.
I love Christmas specials on tv, episodes of my favorite series dedicated for Christmas usually add a lot and bring me joy. Can't think of one Christmas special I didn't like, even for shows I think have stopped being fun.

Submitted by taghavinejad on Sat, 01/01/2022 - 16:54


Last christmas i was turkey. It was great.i living in iran. We dont do that.i mean we dont celebrate it.but i hope we do that someday. Because id like it.

Submitted by Pran on Sat, 11/12/2021 - 16:47


I've never celebrated christmas in my life but I like to do it.Christmas is the biggest event in international. All of the people want to join in this event. Children are also happy in that day because they have been gotten many gifts from their family and relatives. As the schools and offices are also closed in that day people can take a trip and do family gathering. In the christmas season we can get the things with discount and sale.It makes me massively happy.And I fond of watching christmas movies and listening to christmas songs.I believe that this season has brought many happiness.

Submitted by Min Htet Kaung on Sun, 31/01/2021 - 19:02

During Christmas period, some places in downtown of Yangon,especially Cathedral, and some parks are decorated with christmas trees, colourful lights and ribbons. Temporary shops sell various types of snacks and foods alongside the roads in downtown area. On christmas eve and christmas day, from evening until night, we visit those places, either shopping or browsing. When I was young, in our native town, some christians sang Dhamma songs and prayers in front of houses. In return, we gave some presents to them. This is how we participate in christmas celebration. Although I am a Buddhism, I love christmas.