This Word Advent Calendar Brings Kids All The Holiday Cheer

The holiday season is so much fun. With presents, family get-togethers, and delicious food, every day brings something new!

During this festive time, lots of unique vocabulary is used that might have you scratching your head. Many of the words used—in songs, greetings, and to honor our traditions—date back hundreds, if not thousands, of years. That's one reason they may seem unfamiliar.

With this advent calendar, your kids (and you!) will learn one fun new word every day leading up to Christmas! Think of it as our holiday gift to you and yours. Can you find ways to use these new words throughout the season?

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advent

Advent means "arrival."

During Advent, people prepare for the arrival of Jesus Christ.

The original advent calendar was a set of simple chalk marks on the wall. Today, advent calendars give you a chocolate, toy, or new word every day leading up to Christmas!

bough

Bough is a branch of a tree ... but how do you pronounce it. Here's a tip: bough rhymes with wow and meow.

To decorate a Christmas tree, you hang colorful lights and ornaments on its boughs.

crèche

A crèche is a model of Mary, Joseph, and the infant Jesus in the barn. Another name for a crèche is nativity scene.

In French, crèche means "crib" or "manger." It is said that the first crèche was made by St. Francis of Assisi in 1223. His crèche included a live ox and donkey!

yule

Yule is a word for Christmas. The word yule comes from the old Norse winter celebrations where people would feast for 12 whole days.

Today, the tradition continues with the eating of yule log cakes (chocolate cake made to look like firewood) for the holiday instead of feasting for over a week!

goodwill

Goodwill is a feeling of being friendly, helpful, and kind. Many Christmas carols use the line "Peace on earth, goodwill to men."

If you have goodwill this holiday season, you can show it by helping around the house (hint, hint) or just by being kind to your family and friends.

luminaria

Some Spanish-speaking communities in the United States and Mexico celebrate Christmas with luminarias. These are Christmas lanterns made with a candle set inside a paper bag, often with designs cut into them.

Luminarias are a beautiful way to celebrate the holiday. You can easily make luminarias yourself with the help of an adult. All you need are paper bags, candles, sand or dirt, and scissors.

manger

In the Christmas story, Joseph and Mary use a manger as a crib for the infant Jesus.

A manger is a box or trough in a barn that farm animals eat out of. The word manger comes from the French word for "to eat," which is what animals use it for!

garland

A garland is a string of flowers, beads, or tinsel used to decorate people and things—including Christmas trees.

The original Christmas trees were decorated with fruit and wafers. Today, some Americans carry on this tradition by creating garlands made of cranberries and popcorn.

carol

A Christmas carol is a song or hymn for the holiday. It is said that the first Christmas carol was written over 1,600 years ago by St. Hilary in France!

Some popular Christmas carols are "Joy to the World" and "Silent Night." What is your favorite Christmas carol?

refuge

In the Christmas story, Joseph and Mary take refuge in a stable because the inn was full. Refuge is a place of shelter, protection, or safety.

Later, the family is forced to leave Bethlehem because King Herod wants to kill the baby Jesus. Today, we would consider the family refugees because they had to run away for their safety. According to the United Nations, there were 25.9 million refugees around the world in 2019.

wassail

Wassail is a drink made of hot apple cider with sugar, oranges, cinnamon, and other spices. It comes from a toast in Old English that means "be hail" or, in other words, "be in good health."

In some English communities, on the Twelfth Night of Christmas, people go wassailing, where they sing songs called wassails to the apple trees to wake them up and scare away evil spirits so there will be a good harvest. Those are some powerful wassails ...

Magi

The three Magi in the Christmas story are also known as "kings" or "wise men." Magi was a name for priests in ancient Persia. They were known for their knowledge of astrology.

The word Magi comes from the same source as magic—which is why some people call the Magi "sorcerers" (although they likely weren't).

mirth

Christmas is a good time for mirth. Mirth is a happy, jolly feeling that often comes with a side of laughter.

Jolly ol' Santa Claus is one of the best examples of holiday mirth—it seems like he is always smiling.

poinsetta

Poinsettias are plants with red and green leaves native to Central America. They are often given as gifts during the holiday season.

According to a Mexican folktale, a young girl had nothing to leave baby Jesus for Christmas, so she brought a bouquet of weeds from the roadside to the church and left them in front of the crèche (remember word #3 😉).

All of a sudden, the weeds turned into beautiful poinsettias!

In Mexican folklore, poinsettias are called Flores de Noche Buena (Flowers of the Holy Night) because of this story.

spirit

Are you in the Christmas spirit yet? The Christmas spirit is a combination of a good mood, a feeling of generosity, and a general excitement about the holiday.

Spirit has a lot of different meanings, though. It can also refer to ghosts—like the spirits that visit Ebenezer Scrooge in A Christmas Carol.

tidings

Tidings is an old-timey word for news, reports, or other announcements.

One of the lines in the classic Christmas carol "We Wish You a Merry Christmas" is "Good tidings we bring to you, to you and your kin."

That means "We've got some good news for you and your family!" You might wonder, "Well, what is it?" We're pretty sure the good news is that it's Christmastime.

frankincense and myrrh

In the Christmas story, the wise men, or Magi, bring Jesus and his family frankincense and myrrh. Frankincense and myrrh are types of resin that are burned for their lovely smell.

Seem like a strange gift for a newborn baby? Maybe ... but, back in the day, frankincense and myrrh were also used to treat illnesses like fever and sore throat—a helpful thing for parents actually.

partridge

A partridge is a type of bird similar to a quail. In the classic Christmas carol "The Twelve Days of Christmas," the singer's true love gives him "a partridge in a pear tree."

Today, this would make for an unusual Christmas gift, but wait until you learn the origin of partridgeIt ultimately goes back to perdix, the Greek name for the bird. This word is believed to be based on a verb that means "to break wind" ... which is apparently a reference to the sound the bird makes when suddenly taking off.

nativity

A nativity scene shows the birth of Jesus Christ. Nativity is a fancy word for "birth."

Some communities perform nativity plays or Christmas pageants in which they reenact the story of Christmas. In Belgium, the nativity play is often acted out using puppets!

Remember word #3 again ... crèche is a synonym for nativity scene.

hanukiah | menorah

This one is a double word day ... here's the story.

Christmas isn't the only holiday this time of year. December 22, 2019 is also the first night of the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah. The holiday celebrates the Jewish Maccabees retaking the Temple in Jerusalem from the Syrian-Greeks.

Even though the Temple was destroyed, a small amount of oil miraculously lasted for eight days to keep the holy light lit—enough time for new oil to be made.

Jewish people celebrate by lighting candles for eight nights in a special candelabra called a hanukiah. They start out with two candles—one for the night and one "helper" candle. By the end of the holiday, all nine candles in the hanukiah are lit.

Fun fact: a lot of people think this is called a menorah. However, a menorah has fewer candle branches (seven) than a hanukiah and the menorah is mainly just a symbol of Jewish faith.

dreidel

As part of the Hanukkah celebration, Jewish people play a game called dreidel. A dreidel is a special top with four Hebrew letters on it. Each of the letters stands for a word in a sentence that translates to "A Great Miracle Happened There."

The miracle is that the oil in the Temple lasted for eight days.

In Israel, the dreidels say "A Great Miracle Happened Here," because that's where it all happened!

latke

To celebrate the oil lasting for so long, Jews make all kinds of food fried in oil for Hanukkah. Some Jews make a special potato pancake fried in oil called a latke. These crispy, delicious treats are traditionally served with applesauce and sour cream.

Latke is a Yiddish word.

'twas

"'Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house, not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse."

You have probably heard this poem, "A Visit from St. Nicholas," by Clement Clarke Moore. But you may not know what 'twas means. 'Twas is  simply an old-timey abbreviation of "It was." In other words, it was Christmas Eve!

mistletoe

A mistletoe is an evergreen plant that has white berries.

During the Christmas season, there is a tradition of kissing under the mistletoe. This tradition is thousands of years old and goes back all the way to ancient Greece!

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