It’s the holiday season here in the U.S., and you may be hearing some unfamiliar vocabulary words. Here’s a quick guide to vocabulary for Christmas, Hanukkah, and New Year’s Eve traditions.

Christmas vocabulary

  • Angel – A winged human figure who acts as a messenger from God
  • Carol – A traditional Christmas song, such as “Joy to the World” or “Angels We Have Heard on High”
  • Christmas Eve – The night before Christmas
  • Eggnog – A seasonal drink make of eggs and cream with cinnamon, nutmeg, and sometimes rum or bourbon
  • Gingerbread – A kind of cookie flavored with ginger, cinnamon, and cloves, often used to make “gingerbread men” and houses that are decorated with icing and candy
  • Nativity scene – A set of figurines or small statues that represent the birth of Jesus
  • Ornaments – Various small decorations hung on Christmas trees
  • Stocking – A sock-shaped bag used as a Christmas decoration over the fireplace and filled with small gifts
  • Wreath – A round decoration, often made of evergreen tree branches, that is hung on a door

Hanukkah vocabulary

  • Dreidel – A four-sided top decorated with Hebrew letters and used to play a game
  • Menorah – A candleholder that holds nine candles and is lit during Hanukkah
  • Hanukkah (or Chanukah) – A Jewish holiday celebrating a battle victory and the reclaiming of the Temple in Jerusalem. The date varies since it is celebrated according to the Hebrew calendar; for 2016, Hanukkah begins the evening of December 24.

New Year vocabulary

  • Auld Lang Syne – A traditional song for midnight as the new year begins; its words come from a poem by Scottish poet Robert Burns.
  • Ball drop – A slow drop of a large ball, usually decorated with lights, that lands at midnight to mark the new year.The most famous ball drop is in Times Square in New York City.
  • Resolution – A promise to improve one’s self in the new year, such as a pledge to improve one’s diet or exercise regularly
  • Toast – Crisp, hot, sliced bread, but also the act of raising glasses to honor a person, group, or the new year. Champagne toasts are traditional at midnight as the new year begins.

 

 

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