Everyday conversations: Holiday season in the U.S. [audio]

A lit menorah and Christmas tree (Flickr Creative Commons/Matt DeTurck)

Six students from around the world meet. What do they have in common? They are all exchange students studying at a U.S. university for a semester. Throughout the semester, they learn more English, learn about U.S. culture, and learn more about their fields of study. This series of Everyday Conversations is about these six students and their experiences during a semester at a university in the U.S. These conversations are for intermediate-level English-language learners or higher.

In this conversation, a student (Ajay) explains the different holidays he will celebrate with another student (Lucía).

Ajay: How’s the studying going, Lucía?

Lucía: I can’t wait for finals to be over! In another week, I’ll be flying back home. What are you doing over the winter break?

Ajay: Alan invited Lee and me to stay with his family. Home-cooked food for three holiday meals!

Lucía: Three holidays?

Ajay: Alan’s dad is Jewish, and his mom is Christian, so they celebrate both Hanukkah and Christmas. And his mom is a professional chef, so she goes all out for both holiday meals.

Lucía: And what’s the third holiday?

Ajay: New Year’s Day. They have all their family over, and Alan’s mom cooks again. Alan has raved about his mom’s cooking all semester, so Lee and I can’t wait.

Lucía: Holiday meals cooked by a professional chef. I want to hear all about it later. I’ve never had a traditional Hanukkah meal.

Ajay: Neither have I. I’m looking forward to it.

Now let’s review the vocabulary.

How’s (something) going? This question is used to ask someone about his/her progress or about life in general. For example, how’s the studying going means what’s the progress of your studying. The general question how’s it going is informal and similar to how are you.

Can’t wait means to be very eager, anxious or impatient for something.

A winter break is a period of vacation between semesters of college or other schools that includes the winter holidays, such as New Year’s Day.

Home-cooked or homemade food means food prepared at home and not made in a factory, store, etc.

Hanukkah or Chanukah is an eight-day Jewish holiday, usually in late November or December, that commemorates the rededication of the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem more than 2,000 years ago.

Commemorate means to do something special to remind people of an important event or person from the past.

To go all out means to put all of your energy into what you are doing or to put a lot of effort into doing something.

To rave about something is to talk or write about something in an excited and enthusiastic way.

A holiday meal is special food prepared and eaten for a certain holiday. Sometimes these foods are only made and eaten during a certain holiday season. For example, for many families in the U.S. on Thanksgiving, the holiday meal includes cranberry sauce. This is not a food that many people eat at other times of the year.

Ready to learn more English? Our materials can help.

The American English website offers a variety of free resources for learners and teachers of English. The American English Facebook page posts learning materials for English-language learners daily.

Everyday Conversations are developed by the State Department’s Heidi Howland, a senior program officer in the Office of English Language Programs, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.