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News about Britain


The colour of Christmas: cranberries and a candle (from BBC East Midlands Today)

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'Christmas is coming, the goose is getting fat!'

Christmas is the biggest festival in Britain and is celebrated on 25th December. The four weeks before Christmas are called Advent, and are traditionally celebrated in churches by lighting a candle each Sunday during Advent. Nowadays, many people in Britain are not very religious, but they still celebrate Christmas. But watch out - the preparations begin long before Advent. In fact, as early as September or October, you start to see signs that Christmas is on the way.

The first places to tell us that we should be thinking about Christmas are the shops. People in Britain spend on average over £600 (around $1000) per person on Christmas every year, and the shops encourage people to spend more and more. Shops put up Christmas decorations and play cheesy Christmas songs or carols; and some shop workers wear Christmas hats. Some big shops on Regent Street and Oxford Street in London create wonderful displays in their windows with moving characters, falling snow, colourful lights and music.

So what do people buy in preparation for Christmas? Well, Christmas decorations; Christmas cards to send to your friends and relatives; presents for your loved ones and wrapping paper to wrap them up with. And of course food! Apart from the special Christmas dinner of roast turkey or goose, people buy lots of chocolates, nuts and snacks for everyone to enjoy.

But the children are the most excited that Christmas is coming. They start making lists of presents they would like, and give them to their parents, or send them to Santa Claus. In December, they can also open their Advent calendars. Advent calendars are a way of counting down to Christmas. They have a window to open for every day from 1st - 24th December (Christmas Eve).

A basic Advent calendar has a Christmassy picture behind each window, but the children's favourite is usually a chocolate Advent calendar, with a chocolate for every day of the month. It's a great build-up to the overeating that goes on at Christmas!



following a system of beliefs and practices relating to God

watch out
mind you; be prepared

on the way
approaching, drawing closer

of cheap quality or bad in style

traditional and/or religious songs that people sing at Christmas

Christmas hats
hats with pointy tips, usually red in colour and with some fur around them, traditionally worn at Christmas for fun

wrapping paper
decorated paper used to cover presents

apart from
here, in addition to

Santa Claus
the imaginary jolly old man with a white beard and a red suit who brings presents to children at Christmas

relating to Christmas and capturing/representing the jolly mood of the season

anticipation, increasing feeling as a high point (here, Christmas celebrations) approaches

eating too much

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BBC Learning English: Christmas 2008
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Religion & Ethics - Christianity: Advent Calendar
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BBC Somerset Advent Calendar
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Doctor Who - Advent Calendar 2008
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Santa's Chimney Pot Challenge from Cambridge English Online *

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