Improve Your English Vocabulary and Cultural Awareness with Christmas Music

christmasOne of the most effective ways to learn a language, and one of my favorites, is with music!

So today we’re going to learn some Christmas vocabulary by listening to some popular Christmas music.

Whether or not you celebrate Christmas, it’s an important holiday in most English speaking countries, and it can be an interesting cultural festivity to experience. There are so many traditions during Christmas (special foods, popular movies, christmas cards, decorating, parties).

And of course with all of these traditions, there is a lot of special vocabulary to learn, so let’s have some fun with Christmas, English, and culture.

Improve Your English with Christmas Music

This song is a classic [a great song that everyone knows]! It’s short, but it reminds me of everything that I love about Christmas.

This version is from a band called She and Him. The singer is actress Zooey Deschanel (maybe you’ve seen her in my favorite Christmas movie, Elf!).

First, listen to the song. Then, we’ll look at the new vocabulary.

[leadplayer_vid id=”52B80BEA11A9D”]


Roasted-chestnuts-englishAglow (adj) – glowing, bright

Chestnut (n) – a type of nut that is typically roasted in the fall and at Christmastime

Christmas Carol (n) – a Christmas song sung by a choir

Folks (n) – another way to say people

Frost (n) – ice crystals that form when it freezes

Goodies (n) – nice things

Jack Frost (n) – a personification of frost

Mistletoe (n) – a plant typically associated with Christmas. The tradition is that if you are standing beneath mistletoe with someone, you have to kiss him or her


santaNip (v)- to cause a small, sharp pain (often used with frost or cold)

Turkey (n) – a large bird that Americans typically eat for Christmas dinner

Reindeer (n) – the animal that pulls Santa’s sleigh

Roast (v) – to cook something slowly over fire

Sleigh (n) – like a carriage for the snow, usually pulled by horses, but Santa uses reindeer

Tot (n) – another word for a young child

Yuletide (n) – an old way of saying Christmas

Now that you know the new vocabulary, listen to the song again, this time while reading the lyrics:

The Christmas Song by She and Him

Chestnuts roasting on an open fire,
Jack Frost nipping on your nose,
Yuletide carols being sung by a choir,
And folks dressed up like Eskimos.

Everybody knows a turkey and some mistletoe,
Help to make the season bright.
Tiny tots with their eyes all aglow,
Will find it hard to sleep tonight.

They know that Santa’s on his way;
He’s loaded lots of toys and goodies on his sleigh.
And every mother’s child is going to spy,
To see if reindeer really know how to fly.

And so I’m offering this simple phrase,
To kids from one to ninety-two,
Although its been said many times, many ways,
Merry Christmas to you!

Now that you know the lyrics and the vocabulary, listen again and sing along!

We’re going to do one more Christmas classic. It’s a love song by Mariah Carrey called All I Want for Christmas is You.

Do the same as before: listen, then look at the vocabulary and lyrics and try to understand everything, then listen a second time for comprehension and sing along to improve your pronunciation!

[leadplayer_vid id=”52B80E0737CD3″]


Christmas-Stocking-englishClick (n) – a noise, in this case it’s made by reindeer hooves [feet] on the rooftop


Christmas list (n) – a list that children send to Santa that tells him what to bring them

Fireplace (n) – a place where you can build a fire in your house. Santa enters houses through the fireplace

North Pole (n) – the most northern point on the Earth. It’s where Santa supposedly lives

Saint Nick (n) – another name for Santa

Santa Claus (n) –  Santa’s entire name

Stocking (n) – big socks that are hung over the fireplace, which Santa fills with goodies

All I Want For Christmas Is You by Mariah Carrey

I don’t want a lot for Christmas
There is just one thing I need
I don’t care about the presents
Underneath the Christmas tree

I just want you for my own
More than you could ever know
Make my wish come true
All I want for Christmas is you, yeah.

I don’t want a lot for Christmas
There is just one thing I need
And I don’t care about the presents
Underneath the Christmas tree

I don’t need to hang my stocking
There upon the fireplace
Santa Claus won’t make me happy
With a toy on Christmas Day

I just want you for my own
More than you could ever know
Make my wish come true
All I want for Christmas is you
You, baby

Oh, I won’t ask for much this Christmas
I won’t even wish for snow
And I’m just gonna [going to] keep on waiting
Underneath the mistletoe

I won’t make a list and send it
To the North Pole for Saint Nick
I won’t even stay awake to
Hear those magic reindeer click

‘Cause I just want you here tonight
Holding on to me so tight
What more can I do?
Baby, all I want for Christmas is you
You, baby

Oh, all the lights are shining
So brightly everywhere
And the sound of children’s
Laughter fills the air

And everyone is singing
I hear those sleigh bells ringing
Santa, won’t you bring me the one I really need?
Won’t you please bring my baby to me?

Oh, I don’t want a lot for Christmas
This is all I’m asking for
I just want to see my baby
Standing right outside my door

Oh, I just want you for my own
More than you could ever know
Make my wish come true
Baby, all I want for Christmas is
You, baby

Now take your learning to the next level

Did you enjoy these Christmas carols? Hopefully you’ve learned some new vocabulary and a little bit about Christmas culture.

This method of breaking down music is very effective for improving all aspects of the language. You can build your vocabulary, especially by using Anki, you can improve your pronunciation by singing along, and you can even naturally learn collocations, conjugations, and grammar structures. Plus, it’s a lot more fun than “studying”!

Speak English with Learners Around the World

Now that I’ve helped you break down these two songs, why don’t you try doing it yourself?

Consider trying the song, Someday at Christmas by Jack Johnson. It has a beautiful vision for the future, which we hope that the English language will facilitate by creating more World Citizens and connecting all the world under a common language–learn more about these ideas.

Happy holidays and a very Merry Christmas from RealLife English!

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  • NaNa Kim says:

    Happy Holiday my friends 🙂