Christmas Vocabulary (Part Two)

Christmas is the Christian holiday that honors the birth of Jesus. In the United States, Canada, and much of the rest of English-speaking world, Christmas is both a religious and a secular holiday. Many people engage in Christmas traditions, including decorating Christmas trees and exchanging gifts, even if they do not follow the Christian faith themselves. With that in mind, here is a series of words commonly-associated with secular Christmas traditions.


Santa Claus: A fictional being based on Saint Nicholas. Santa Claus brings presents to children the night before Christmas.


Mrs. Claus: Santa’s wife.


Chimney: The exhaust pipe for a fireplace. Santa Claus traditionally enters a house through its fireplace chimney.


Fireplace: A partly enclosed space where people light a fire for warmth. “Fireplace” and “chimney” are often used interchangeably to describe Santa’s entry point into houses.


Reindeer: Also known as caribou, reindeer are a species of deer native to, among other areas, the northern regions of North America. In the Santa Claus tradition, reindeer “pull” Santa’s sleigh as it flies through the sky on Christmas Eve.


Sleigh: A sled drawn by horses or reindeer. Traditionally, Santa uses a special sleigh to carry presents to all the children of the world.


North Pole: Santa’s home and workshop are traditionally located at a highly-romanticized version of the North Pole.


Christmas elf: A small, diminutive creature who makes presents in Santa’s workshop.

Christmas ornaments: Decorations hung on a Christmas tree. The most common Christmas ornaments are small, ornate globes. However, ornaments can also take the form of anything seasonally-appropriate or of sentimental value.


Christmas star: A star-shaped decoration that is traditionally placed atop a Christmas tree.


Christmas lights: A long series of small lights on a wire. Christmas lights can be a single color or multiple colors. People traditionally use them to decorate both Christmas trees and the outsides of houses.


Eggnog: A traditional Christmas drink made of beaten eggs and milk and (optionally) alcohol.


Fruitcake: A cake made with chopped candied fruit and/or dried fruit, nuts, and spices and often consumed at Christmas.


Holly: An evergreen plant with prickly dark green leaves and red berries.


Mistletoe: A parasitic plant with white berries. While highly toxic if eaten, mistletoe is nevertheless hung over doorways and thresholds at Christmas. If two people find themselves accidentally under the mistletoe together, it is traditional that they kiss.


Tinsel: A form of decoration consisting of thin strips of shiny metal foil. Tinsel is often used to decorate a Christmas tree.


Secret Santa: A type of Christmas gift exchange popular among coworkers. Members of a group are randomly assigned a person to whom they give a gift. Recipients do not know the identity of givers, hence the “secret” part of the name.


Xmas: An informal abbreviation for Christmas.


White Christmas: A Christmas with plenty of white snow.


Merry Christmas: A traditional Christmas greeting.


Happy Holidays: An inclusive alternative to “Merry Christmas” that does not assume that the recipient celebrates Christmas.