New Year Celebrations

In the UK, on 31st December, people usually hold New Year parties and when Big Ben strikes midnight, they toast with a glass of champagne to wish each other good luck for the coming year. They will then link arms to sing an old Scottish song called Auld Lang Syne, meaning «times gone by» which recalls old  friends.

The Scottish celebration of Hogmanay is the best known New Year celebration and often lasts until 2nd January, which is a holiday in Scotland. Hogmanay is thought to originate from a Viking festival, which celebrated the passing of the winter solstice. Dancing to the music of bagpipes over crossed swords, firework displays and drinking whisky form part of this celebration.

Another New Year tradition is ‘first-footing’ where the first visitor to pass the threshold and enter the house, once the clock has struck twelve, will carry coal and make a fire to welcome the New Year. To bring good luck, the visitor should be a tall, dark male as the Vikings believed that blond strangers were a bad omen.

And in Wales, people give each other Calennig, a decoration made of an apple placed on three twigs. Dried fruit, cloves and a piece of evergreen are stuck in the apple. The Calennig is placed on a window sill to bring good luck to the house. Traditionally children would go from house to house, singing and carrying calennig as a symbol of good wishes for the coming year and would receive gifts of food or money.

Secret Santa and Yankee Swap

The Secret Santa (“amigo invisible”) is a popular tradition where each member of a family or group of friends is given the task of buying an anonymous Christmas gift for another person in the group. Who gives a present to who is decided at random.  Each person then has to guess who has given them the present. The origin of this tradition is thought to come from the Scandinavian custom of julklapp in which people would knock on their neighbour’s door, leaving a gift on their doorstep, and run away before the door was opened.

A Yankee Swap is an American tradition where each guest brings a wrapped present to a party (usually within a determined price range). All the presents are put together in a pool and each party guest draws a number to decide the order in which they can choose one of the gifts. The guests will then try to swap or exchange gifts with each other until they end up with the gift they like the most. The origin of this tradition is thought to come from the American love of bartering (“hacer trueques”) and bargaining (“regatear”).

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The many meanings of get (1)

‘Get’ is probably the most overused English verb and here are some examples of the different meanings it has:

to receive

I got lots of presents for my birthday.

She got a phone call from her previous company.

 = to  earn, to buy, to obtain

How much did you get for your old car?

Where did you get those lovely shoes from?

She’s just got a new job in advertising.

= to experience or suffer something bad or an illness:

They got very bad stomach ache after eating at the new restaurant.

He’s got so many problems, he doesn’t know what to do.

 To be continued…

Long weekend phrasal verbs

Here’s some useful vocabulary for a long weekend:

to drop off – take someone to the airport, station etc.

John dropped Sarah off at the station on his way home.

to see off –  to say goodbye to someone at the airport, station etc.

His family saw him off at the airport when he went to study in the United States.

to pick up – to meet someone at the airport, station etc. and take them home, to a hotel etc.

Her husband picked his wife up from the bus station and they went home.

to set off – start a journey

They set off early to miss the morning traffic.

to get away – to go somewhere for a break or a holiday.

We’re going to get away this long weekend. Are you going anywhere?