In this vocabulary lesson, you’ll learn English collocations and sentence structures you can use to talk about Christmas or any holiday that involves giving presents and decorating!
One of the best things you can do to learn English faster and feel more confident when you speak English is to focus on collocations and sentence structure.
gift vs. present
These words are synonyms. They have the same meaning. Present is more informal, but otherwise you can use both words in conversation. They both mean something that you give someone.
give someone a present
I gave my dad a new camera for Christmas!
He gave her a pair of earrings for Christmas.
buy a present for someone
I still need to buy something for my dad.
I bought it for her!
buy someone something
I don’t know what to buy her!
I bought her a pair of slippers.
Have you bought anything for your mom yet?
get someone something for Christmas
What did you get for Christmas?
= What presents did people give you for Christmas?
What did you get your mom for Christmas?
= What did you buy your mom for Christmas?
I got my dad a new camera.
In my family, we always open presents on Christmas morning.
I can’t wait until everyone opens their presents.
Let’s go shopping this weekend.
I need to go Christmas shopping.
Notice that it is NOT:
go to shopping. Don’t use the preposition to here.
Learn more: How to use the English verb go
We use Christmas shopping to talk about the specific act of buying Christmas presents.
Have you finished your Christmas shopping?
This means to put decorative paper around your gift.
I am always up late on Christmas Eve wrapping presents.
Have you finished wrapping all your presents?
Use wrapping paper to wrap Christmas presents. Putting presents in gift bags has become more common, however, because it’s much easier than wrapping presents!
exchange gifts with someone
In this context, the verb exchange means give someone something and in return they give you something.
We decided not to exchange gifts for Christmas this year.
put up the Christmas tree, decorations and lights
We always put up our Christmas tree right after Thanksgiving.
We put up the Christmas lights in the fall when it’s warmer. We don’t turn them on until December.
It’s too early to put up Christmas decorations! Wait until December!
We’re putting up our Christmas decorations this weekend!
decorate the tree, your house (with Christmas decorations)
My mom loves to decorate the house for the holidays.
We all decorate the tree together while listening to Christmas music.
spend Christmas somewhere
spend Christmas with someone
We usually spend Christmas with our families.
This year we’re spending Christmas Eve with my parents.
We’re spending Christmas in the Bahamas this year!
go somewhere for Christmas
We’re going to my parents’ house for Christmas this year.
Let’s go to Disney World for Christmas this year!
wish someone a happy / merry Christmas
This isn’t something you usually say. Usually you just say “Merry Christmas!” to people. This is something that is written, for example in a Christmas card.
We wish you and your family a very merry Christmas.
send a Christmas card to someone
We send Christmas cards to all our relatives and good friends!
My mom is tired of sending Christmas cards. She wants to do it online this year!
write a letter to Santa
Kids write letters to Santa to ask him for specific toys for Christmas.
My kids write letters to Santa every year.
Have you written your letter to Santa yet?
Learn more: The Story of Santa Claus
set up a nativity scene
A nativity scene is a display that represents the story of the birth of Jesus, as described in the Gospels of Luke and Matthew in the Bible. It includes characters that represent Mary, Joseph & baby Jesus, the Magi (the Three Kings), the shepherd, animals, and angels.
We set up the nativity scene a few days before Christmas, then add baby Jesus on Christmas morning.
Take note of specific prepositions to use with Christmas
on Christmas Eve, on Christmas Day
Use the preposition on when you talk about the specific day.
We always have a huge family dinner on Christmas Day.
Most business are closed on Christmas Day. However, some malls have started opening on Christmas Day in major cities.
Use the preposition at when you talk about the entire season.
I always gain a few pounds at Christmas. There are too many delicious treats!
We go to so many parties at Christmas.
Use the preposition for when the specific purpose of doing an activity is Christmas.
What are you doing for Christmas this year?
Do you know what you want for Christmas?
Did I miss any collocations? Do you still have questions about Christmas collocations? Let me know in the comments below!