Christmas in Europe

In many parts of Europe, the traditional Christmas celebrations begin before December 25.

In the Netherlands, children leave their shoes beside the fireplace on December 5, which is the night before St Nicholas' Day. St Nicholas was a rich bishop in the 13th century who gave away his wealth to help the poor, so Dutch children hope he'll come down the chimney and leave sweets in their shoes on his special day. They call him "Sinterklaas", which is how the rest of the world got the story of Santa Claus.

Families in Sweden begin their Christmas celebrations on St Lucia's Day, December 13. In the morning one of the daughters of the family puts on a white dress, a red sash, and a crown of leaves topped with five tall white candles. She carries buns and coffee to the rest of the family as they lie in bed. She sings a song about St Lucia, who was supposed to have taken food to the early Christians. They were hiding from the Romans in underground caves, so the candles on the crown helped St Lucia find the way.

In Poland, people fast all day on Christmas Eve, then everyone watches for the first star twinkling in the evening sky. This is the signal to exchange Christmas greetings, and sit down to a special "Wigilia" meal, at which the main course is fish.

After supper, the Star Man arrives, with presents for the children. He's often accompanied by carol-singing Star Boys dressed in fancy costumes.

Star boys turn up in many parts of Europe, including Germany and Norway, where they parade through the streets, singing and carrying a star on a pole before them.

In Denmark, people eat a special meal on Christmas Eve. The main course is pork or duck, with potatoes coated in melted butter and sugar. For pudding they have a sort of sweet rice porridge in which one whole almond is hidden. The person who finds the almond wins a surprise present. And if it's an unmarried girl, the almond is supposed to mean she will soon be a bride.

Report Text

This describes the way things are.

Discussion points

Is this text in chronological order? Why or why not?

Would you say this is personal or impersonal writing? What makes you think so?

Language features

What tense are the verbs in this piece of writing? Why?

Find sentences where the words which or who are used to introduce additional information. What is the extra information each time?

These are complex sentences - they contain two or more clauses, linked together with joining words. Find more complex sentences in this text. What is the linking word each time?

Why do you think complex sentences are common in report text?

In what "word class" (part of speech) is the word "children". Is it singular or plural?

Is it used here to refer to particular children in each country, or children in general? How do you know? Find other words in this text used in the same way as "children".

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