Describing British and Japanese Xmas and New Year

Brainstorm descriptions of a (usual/ traditional) Japanese and British or American Xmas and New Year into the table on the next page, particularly the differences.

Use these categories to help with the brainstorming task above:

  • Food and drink
  • Decorations
  • Religion and superstitions (good luck and bad luck)
  • Sports and games
  • Gifts and cards
  • Arts and media
  • Clothes
  • Spending time together (parties etc)

Without looking below, put the cards that you are given into the two columns matching the two categories in the table. Some things might happen in both places, but all should clearly be more common or more traditional in one place or the other.

 

Hints:

  • If it’s not very common and/ or traditional in Japan, it must be for the other column, and vice versa
  • There should the same number (29) in each column
  • You should be able to put at least some of them into pairs by topic

 

Check your answers with an un-cut-up version of the worksheet. Is anything surprising? Are any important things missing?

 

Imagine one of you is Japanese and the other person or people are from the UK or US, and that you are seeing each other (again) for the first time since the Xmas/ New Year holiday. Ask each other about the break, imagining you know very little about Xmas and New Year traditions in the other person’s country, and so asking for more info about things you don’t understand.

 

Do the same, but this time speaking for a couple of minutes then smoothly finishing the chat, for example to get down to business or move on and talk to someone else.

 

 


 

(Traditional/ Typical) Japanese Xmas and New Year (Traditional/ Typical) British or American Xmas and New Year
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Cards to cut up/ Suggested answers

Japanese Xmas and New Year British Xmas and New Year
 

Send New Year postcards

 

 

Send Christmas cards

Watch television singing competition show on New Year’s Eve

 

Watch the Queen’s speech in the afternoon on Christmas Day
Traditional games and sports (e.g. a kind of badminton with wooden bats)

 

Often go for a walk as a family after Xmas dinner
A kind of long distance relay race is televised every year

 

Unlike most of Europe, many football matches held and televised
The most common Xmas meat is fried chicken (often from KFC)

 

Most common Xmas meat is roast turkey (with stuffing, gravy, cranberry sauce, etc)
The most filling New Year food is chewy rice cake

 

The most filling Christmas food is roast (and sometimes mashed) potatoes
New Year vegetables include black beans, seaweed and bamboo shoots

 

Christmas vegetables include Brussel sprouts, parsnips and roasted carrots
New Year foods tend to be for good luck or because little extra preparation is needed Xmas foods ones that were still available in winter like root vegetables and dried fruit

 

Hot sweet red beans with chewy rice cake eaten in January

 

Hot pudding with brandy sauce, custard, fresh cream, or ice cream eaten for Xmas
Drink something called “sweet rice wine”, actually a non-alcoholic drink, usually hot Drink a drink called eggnog (egg liqueur) or mulled wine (hot wine with spices)

 

Christmas cake is often a sponge with cream and strawberries Christmas cake is usually a heavy dried fruit cake with marzipan and white icing

 

Packaged snacks (sometimes shaped like Xmas stockings) bought and given to kids

 

Everyone eats snacks (tins of chocolates, sugared almonds, chocolate coins, etc)
Make your own chewy rice cake by pounding sticky rice with a wooden mallet

 

Take the shells off your own nuts with

a nutcracker

Eat mashed chestnuts and whole chestnuts around New Year

 

Eat nuts and dried fruit such as Brazil nuts, walnuts, dates and figs around Christmas

 

 

 

Give cash in little envelopes, only to kids

 

Give presents, in stockings or under the Xmas tree, to both adults and children
Visit to a temple or shrine to pray for the first time of the year

 

Go to church for a carol service or (candlelit) midnight mass
Boyfriends and girlfriends spend Xmas together, e.g. having a romantic meal

 

Families spend Christmas together at home
Especially in shops, Xmas decorations replaced by New Year ones on Dec. 25th

 

Christmas decorations must be taken down by 6 January, or it is bad luck
End of the year “forget the year party” with colleagues, usually in a bar End of the year Christmas party with colleagues, often actually in the office

 

Sometimes dress in traditional clothes to visit a temple or shrine around New Year Wear party hats (from inside Christmas crackers) on Christmas day

 

Decorate the house with the “7 lucky gods” and the animal representing the (new) year Decorate the house with fairy lights, tree, nativity scene, tinsel, baubles, wreath, etc

 

Decorate the house with pine branches and pine cones for New Year Decorate the house with (real or plastic) holly and mistletoe for Christmas

 

 

New Year’s Eve is a family time.

 

New Year’s Eve is a time to go out partying (e.g. clubbing) with your friends.

 

Welcome the New Year by eating (greyish) buckwheat noodles Welcome the New Year by linking hands and singing “Auld Lang Syne”

 

A lot of New Year superstitions, e.g. a slip of paper with your fortune for the next year

 

Some Xmas superstitions, e.g. good luck for getting the coin in the Xmas pudding
Most museums etc closed for a few days around New Year

 

No shopping, trains, buses etc on Xmas Day, and taxis three times the normal price
Beethoven’s Ninth popular around New Year

 

Most people know the words to many Xmas songs, including Xmas carols
Shops play traditional music around New Year

 

Carol singers sometimes go from house to house singing Xmas songs
Shops sell especially packaged bags of discount goods in the New Year

 

Some people sleep outside shops to get the biggest bargains in the January Sales


Choose one of the things below and describe it without saying any part of its name until your partner guesses what you are talking about. Do they agree with your description?

Japanese Xmas and New Year vocabulary British and American Xmas and New Year vocabulary
amazake

bounenkai

daruma

dondo-yaki

ekiden

fukubukuro

fukuwarai

hakama

hanetsuki/ hago-ita

hatsumode

joya-no-kane

kadomatsu

karuta

kazunoko

kimono

konbu

kouhaku uta-gassen

kurikinton

kuro-mame

mochi

mochi-tsuki

nenga-jo

omikuji

o-sechi-ryori

o-shiruko

o-toshi-dama

(o-)toso

o-zoni

saru-doshi

shichi-fuku-jin strawberry “short cake”

sugoroku

tai

takenoko

toshi-koshi-soba

advent calendar

Auld Lang Syne

baubles

brandy sauce

bread sauce

Brussel sprouts

candlelit service

(Xmas) carol

chestnuts

chocolate coins

Christmas crackers

cranberry sauce

custard

date

eggnog

fairy lights

fig

goose

gravy

holly

marzipan

midnight mass

mistletoe

mulled wine

nativity (scene)

nut roast

nutcrackers

office party

parsnip

raisin

roast

stuffing

sugared almonds

The Queen’s speech

tinsel

turkey

walnuts

winter ale

wreath

Xmas log

Xmas pudding

Xmas tree

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PDF version for easy saving and printing: describing-british-and-japanese-xmas-and-new-year

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