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50 Awesome Holiday Words to Know This December

Updated on December 13, 2023Lifestyle
Holiday Words

The winter holidays are upon us, and these celebrations with their many traditions each have a rich and varied vocabulary.

From Krampus to kinara, latke to plum pudding, frankincense to yule—there’s a whole host of fantastic holiday words to explore.

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So broaden your vocabulary and enter the holiday spirit with these fifty awesome holiday words!

1 Advent

A Latin word meaning “coming;” the Christian season of expectant waiting and preparation beginning four Sundays before Christmas. Many people count down to the holiday with festive advent calendars made specifically for this purpose.

2 Bauble

A small, decorative sphere hung from a Christmas tree.

3 Boxing Day

A British holiday celebrated the day after Christmas; traditionally when servants and tradespeople were given a “Christmas Box” by employers.

4 Carol

A festive song often sung at Christmas.

5 Christmas

A religious and cultural festival celebrating Jesus Christ’s birth that is typically observed on December 25th.

6 Chimney

A hollow structure allowing smoke from an indoor fireplace to vent outside; also Santa Claus’s magical entryway into homes.

7 Dreidel

A four-sided top used by children to play a gambling game during Hanukkah.

8 Druid

Druids are among the ancient peoples that celebrated the winter solstice, which always falls just before Christmas.

9 Eggnog

A drink made with milk or cream, sugar, eggs, and often distilled spirits.

10 Elves

Magical, pointy-eared creatures who build toys for well-behaved children at the behest of Santa.

11 Epiphany

A Christian feast day celebrated on January 6th, commemorating the Magi’s visit to the baby Jesus.

12 Father Christmas

The English personification of Christmas, now synonymous with Santa Claus.

13 Feliz Navidad

A Spanish phrase meaning “Happy Christmas.”

14 Frankincense

An incense symbolizing holiness.

15 Gingerbread

A cookie made with molasses and ginger.

16 Grinch

A grouchy spoilsport who doesn’t enjoy Christmas.

17 Hanukkah

The eight-day “festival of lights” commemorating the rededication of the Jewish temple around 200 B.C. The holiday is celebrated by lighting candles, eating fried foods, playing games, and giving gifts.

18 Holly

An evergreen bush with red berries and prickly leaves used as a winter holiday decoration in pagan and Christian traditions.

19 Immanuel

A Hebrew name meaning “God with us.”

20 Jolly

Cheerful and good-humored.

21 Kinara

A candle holder for the seven candles lit during Kwanzaa.

22 Krampus

A half-goat, half-demon character of European folklore who punishes misbehaving children during Christmas.

23 Kwanzaa

A seven-day festival celebrating African American cultural heritage, created by Dr. Maulana Karenga in 1966. Festivities include candle lighting, singing, storytelling, poetry reading, and feasting.

24 Lapland

A region in Finland rumored to be where Santa Claus lives.

25 Latkes

Pancakes made of grated potato, fried in oil, and served during Hanukkah.

26 Magi

The Zoroastrian priests of ancient Persia. According to tradition, three of these “wise men” visited the infant Jesus.

27 Manger

An open box or trough holding food for livestock.

28 Mele Kalikimaka

A phonetic translation of “Merry Christmas” into the Hawaiian language.

29 Menorah

A nine-branched candelabrum used during Hanukkah.

30 Miracle

An extraordinary and welcome event, unexplainable by scientific laws.

31 Mistletoe

A parasitic plant with white berries, hung from doorways as a Christmas decoration. People are expected to kiss when standing beneath it.

32 Mittens

Gloves with one opening for the thumb and another for the four fingers.

33 Myrrh

A fragrant oil symbolizing suffering and mortality.

34 Nativity

The place and conditions of a birth; commonly used to refer to the birth of Jesus.

35 Naughty

Badly-behaved. “Naughty” children traditionally received coal from Santa Claus instead of presents.

36 Noel

“The Christmas season”; derived from Old French.

37   North Pole

Believed by many Westerners to be Santa Claus’s home.

38 Nutcracker

A device used to crack open the shells of nuts. Also, the name of a popular ballet set during Christmas, scored by Tchaikovsky, staged during the holiday season.

39 Plum pudding

A steamed Christmas cake resembling a cannonball, filled with dried fruit.

40 Poinsettia

Pronounced poyn-seh-tee-uh, this Mexican shrub was first used as a Christmas decoration by Franciscan friars in the 17th century.

41 Santa Claus

A mythical, white-bearded man clad in red who delivers presents to well-behaved children on Christmas Eve; based on legends of the historical Saint Nicholas’s generosity.

42 Sleigh

A sled typically pulled by horses or reindeer.

43 Stocking

A long sock, traditionally filled with small Christmas gifts.

44 Tidings

Breaking news, also heard as the lyric “Oh tidings of comfort and joy” in the religious holiday song God Rest Ye Merry Gentlement

45 Tinsel

Slender strips of shiny metallic foil or plastic used as Christmas decorations.

46 Toboggan

A long, wooden sled used to coast down snow-covered hills.

47 Wassail

A hot, spiced cider drink, traditionally served to poor carolers by their wealthy neighbors.

48 Winter Solstice

The first day of winter and the shortest day of the year (in the Northern Hemisphere).

49 Wreath

A circular arrangement of greenery or flowers.

50 Yule

A pagan festival celebrating rebirth and renewal held on the Winter Solstice.

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