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Saturday December 25, 2004

Pre-Intermediate +

THE ARTICLE

‘Tis the season to be merry. That’s true for most of the world’s Christians as they celebrate the holiest day of their year today, but you mustn’t shout about it in the USA anymore. Saying ‘Merry Christmas’ in public has been more or less banned. It has become a politically correct no-no. Why such fuss? With its multi-cultural society, and current clash of religions between Christians and Muslims, any holiday with ‘Christ’ in its title is playing favorites. Especially as there is no ‘Mohammedmas’ or ‘Buddhamas’  or ‘Abrahamas’ holiday. Even President George W. Bush cannot wish the American people a ‘Happy Christmas’. Instead he must say ‘Happy Holidays’. That same phrase must be used by Wal Mart employees when greeting their customers a happy ……… Christmas! America seems to be very confused at the moment. Christmas trees in public places are now ‘community trees’ and the most famous Xmas song, ‘We Wish You a Merry Christmas’ has become ‘We Wish You a Swinging Holiday’. The SaveMerryChristmas web site calls all of this “a covert and deceptive war” on Christmas and has called on all Americans to boycott stores that do not display the words ‘Merry’ or ‘Happy Christmas’. Meanwhile, all other American should enjoy their Winter Holiday's Cake.


 
 

POSSIBLE WARM UPS / COOL DOWNS

1. CHAT:  Talk in pairs or groups about Christmas / Christmas Day / Christianity  /  the Birth of Jesus Christ / other religious holidays / “Merry Christmas” / Xmas cake / Xmas presents …
To make things more dynamic, try telling your students they only have one minute (or 2) on each chat topic before changing topics / partners. Change topic / partner frequently to energize the class.

2. MY COUNTRY: Talk about Christmas in your country. If it has no significance, then talk about another religious or important festival / holiday.

3. CHRISTMAS BRAINSTORM: Ask students for facts / feelings / opinions on Christmas. Write these on the board. Students talk about these in pairs.

4. 2-MINUTE DEBATES: Students face each other in pairs and engage in the following (for-fun) 2-minute debates. Students A are assigned the first argument, students B the second. Rotate pairs to ensure a lively pace and noise level is kept:
Christmas is too commercial anyway. vs. Bah Humbug.
Christmas should receive equal treatment in a multi-cultural society. vs America is 85% Christian.
The President should be able to wish Christians a merry Christmas and everyone else Happy Holidays. vs That ignores the fact that Xmas is a major holiday. Other religions do not have such a major holiday?
Santa doesn’t exist. vs. Of course Santa exists.
“Merry Xmas” is best. vs. “Happy Christmas” is best.
“Merry Xmas” is best. vs. “Happy Holidays” is best.
There is only one name for it and that is ‘Christmas tree’. vs. No. We must be politically correct and call it a community tree.

PRE-READING IDEAS


 
 

1. WORD SEARCH: Students look in their dictionaries / computer to find collocates, other meanings, information, synonyms … of the words ‘merry, ‘happy’, and ‘Christmas’.

2. TRUE / FALSE: Students look at the headline and predict whether they believe the following statements are true or false:
(a)  Tis the season to be merry.  T / F
(b)  Christians celebrate their second holiest day of their year today.  T / F
(c)  Saying ‘Merry Christmas’ in public in the USA has become controversial.  T / F
(d)  Saying ‘Merry Christmas’ in America has become has become politically incorrect.  T / F
(e)  In America there is also Mohammedmas or Buddhamas.  T / F
(f)  George W. Bush cannot wish the American people a ‘Happy Christmas’.  T / F
(g)  Christmas trees in public places are still Christmas trees.  T / F
(h)  One web site says there is “a covert and deceptive war” on Christmas.  T / F

3. SYNONYM MATCH: Students match the following synonyms from the article:

(a)

merry

raise one’s voice

(b)

celebrate

puzzled

(c)

shout

controversy

(d)

banned

happy

(e)

no-no

prohibited

(f)

fuss

secret

(g)

clash

confrontation

(h)

confused

commemorate

(i)

covert

sneaky

(j)

deceptive

taboo

4. PHRASE MATCH: Students match the following phrases based on the article (sometimes more than one combination is possible):

(a)

‘Tis the season

day

(b)

holiest

correct

(c)

in

favorites

(d)

more or

stores

(e)

politically

to be merry

(f)

multi-cultural

the words ‘Merry Christmas’

(g)

playing

all Americans

(h)

greeting

public

(i)

called on

their customers

(j)

boycott

less banned

(k)

display

society

 

WHILE READING ACTIVITIES

1. GAP-FILL:  Put the missing words under each paragraph into the gaps.

We Wish You A Merry Something

‘Tis the season to be __________. That’s true for most of the w orld’s Christians as they celebrate the __________ day of their year today, but you mustn’t shout about it in the USA anymore. Saying ‘Merry Christmas’ in public has been more or less __________. It has become a politically correct no-no. Why such fuss? With its multi-cultural society, and current clash of __________ between Christians and Muslims, any holiday with ‘Christ’ in its title is playing favorites. Especially as there is no ‘Mohammedmas’ or ‘Buddhamas’  or ‘Abrahamas’ holiday. Even President George W. Bush cannot __________ the American people a ‘Happy Christmas’. Instead he must say ‘Happy Holidays’. That same phrase must be used by Wal Mart employees when greeting their customers a happy ……… Christmas! America seems to be very __________ at the moment. Christmas trees in public places are now ‘community trees’ and the most famous Xmas song, ‘We Wish You a Merry Christmas’ has become ‘We Wish You a Swinging Holiday’. The SaveMerryChristmas web site calls all of this “a __________ and deceptive war” on Christmas and has called on all Americans to boycott stores that do not __________ the words ‘Merry’ or ‘Happy Christmas’. Meanwhile, all other American should enjoy their Winter Holiday's Cake.
 

 

covert
banned
display
religions
holiest
wish
merry
confused

2. TRUE/FALSE:  Students check their answers to the T/F exercise.

3. SYNONYMS:  Students check their answers to the synonyms exercise.

4. PHRASE MATCH: Students check their answers to the phrase match exercise.

5. QUESTIONS: Students make notes for questions they would like to ask the class about the article.

6. VOCABULARY:  Students circle any words they do not understand. In groups pool unknown words and use dictionaries to find the meanings.

POST READING IDEAS

1. GAP-FILL: Check the answers to the gap-fill exercise.

2. QUESTIONS:  Students ask the discussion questions they thought of above to their partner / group / class. Pool the questions for all students to share.

3. VOCABULARY: As a class, go over the vocabulary students circled above.

4. STUDENT-GENERATED SURVEY: Pairs/Groups write down 3 questions based on the article. Conduct their surveys alone. Report back to partners to compare answers. Report to other groups / the whole class.

5. ‘HAPPY’/ ‘MERRY’/’CHRISTMAS’: Students make questions based on their findings from pre-reading activity #1.

6. DISCUSSION:  Students ask each other the following questions:
(a)  Do you like Christmas?
(b)  What is your earliest memory of Christmas?
(c)  What present would you like this year?
(d)  What do you think of the controversy in America over the term ‘Merry Christmas’?
(e)  Should other religious holidays receive equal treatment in America (or other multi-cultural societies)?
(f)  Is America ‘too Christian’?
(g)  Don’t you think Christmas has lost its true meaning these days?
(h)  What do you usually do over the Christmas holidays (if you have them)?
(i)  Do you think America is too politically correct?
(j)  Do you prefer the term ‘Happy Christmas’ or ‘Happy Holidays’?

HOMEWORK

1. VOCAB EXTENSION: Choose several of the words from the text. Use a dictionary or the Google search field to build up more associations / collocations of each word.

2. INTERNET: Search the Internet and find more information on Xmas carols. Share your findings with your class next lesson.

3. HOLIDAY HISTORY: Create an information poster outlining the history and celebration of Christmas, or your favorite holiday.

4. LETTER TO GEORGE: Write a letter to the President of the United States, George W. Bush, expressing your opinion on this issue.

ANSWERS

TRUE / FALSE:
(a)  Tis the season to be merry.  T
(b)  Christians celebrate their second holiest day of their year today.  F
(c)  Saying ‘Merry Christmas’ in public in the USA has become controversial.  T
(d)  Saying ‘Merry Christmas’ in America has become has become politically incorrect.  T
(e)  In America there is also Mohammedmas or Buddhamas.  F
(f)  George W. Bush cannot wish the American people a ‘Happy Christmas’.  T
(g)  Christmas trees in public places are still Christmas trees.  F
(h)  One web site says there is “a covert and deceptive war” on Christmas.  T

SYNONYM MATCH:

(a)

merry

happy

(b)

celebrate

commemorate

(c)

shout

raise one’s voice

(d)

banned

prohibited

(e)

no-no

taboo

(f)

fuss

controversy

(g)

clash

confrontation

(h)

confused

puzzled

(i)

covert

secret

(j)

deceptive

sneaky

PHRASE MATCH:

(a)

‘Tis the season

to be merry

(b)

holiest

day

(c)

in

public

(d)

more or

less banned

(e)

politically

correct

(f)

multi-cultural

society

(g)

playing

favorites

(h)

greeting

their customers

(i)

called on

all Americans

(j)

boycott

stores

(k)

display

the words ‘Merry Christmas’

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