Holiday Expressions

No matter what country they live in, English language learners are usually exposed to Christmas and other popular winter holidays one way or another—whether it’s through their own family or a homestay family’s traditions, from watching movies, etc. Help your students learn to write and say common holiday phrases with the following tips!

How to Capitalize Holiday Expressions

Do your students know that the words “day” and “eve” get capitalized when they are part of the holiday name? Also note that New Year is capitalized when referring to the holiday but lowercased when speaking of the new year in general.

  • Christmas Eve
  • Christmas Day
  • Christmastime
  • Christmas morning
  • Christmas dinner
  • Boxing Day
  • New Year’s Eve
  • a New Year’s Eve party
  • New Year’s Day
  • the new year
  • Chanukah / Hanukkah
  • Kwanzaa
  • Santa Claus
  • Santa
  • a Santa hat

What to Write on Cards, Emails, or Texts

Your students will likely appreciate knowing how to wish each other well in English during the holiday season. Here is a list of common expressions (often followed by an exclamation point):

  • Merry Christmas  (common in North American English)
  • Happy Christmas  (common in British English)
  • Happy Holidays  (usually capitalized, though “Happy holidays” is also correct)
  • Season’s Greetings  (more formal and usually capitalized, though “Season’s greetings” is also correct)
  • Happy New Year  (“Happy New Year’s” is a common mistake people make)

How to Write a Family Sign-Off

Do your students know how to sign off on cards, letters, or emails? If they’re signing from their whole family, they need a plural proper noun. While the style used to be family name + ‘s, the apostrophe has mostly been dropped. The modern trend is to use family name + s. Note that names that end in -ch, -sh, -s, -z, or -x will take -es (and have an extra syllable of pronunciation: /əz/). Names that end in -y do NOT become -ies.

  • From the Johnsons
  • With love from the Carlyles
  • Love, the Joneses
  • The Martinezes
  • The Murphys
  • The Grays

How to Shorten “Presents”

This shortened form of “presents” is heard more and more these days. Both prezzies and pressies are pronounced preh zees (/ˈprɛ ziz/). The difference in spelling depends on where you live:

  • prezzies  (preferred spelling in North American English)
  • pressies  (preferred spelling in British English, but prezzies is also common)

How to Say “Poinsettia”

This traditional red plant can be seen in many countries during the holiday season. The difference in pronunciation depends on where you live:

  • poyn seh tah  (/pojn ˈsɛ tæ/; 3 syllables is preferred in North American English)
  • poyn seh tee ah  (/pojn ˈsɛ ti æ/; 4 syllables is preferred in British English)

Related Materials

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