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Holiday Expressions & Capitalization Rules

December 19, 2013

Happy Holidays!

'Tis the season when people greet each other and wish each other well more often than usual. Most English-speaking countries have certain expressions for wishing each other a happy holiday. Your students will appreciate learning common English holiday expressions, and you can make this into a productive lesson by teaching them when to capitalize holiday terms. If you have a multicultural class, have students compare the English expressions against what they say in their own languages!

Holiday Expressions

Holiday greetings are spoken to friends, family, neighbors, coworkers, and even strangers on the street or in stores. These expressions are also written in cards, emails, text messages, etc. When written, many people follow the expression with an exclamation mark (e.g., Happy Holidays!). Note: Happy Holidays and Season’s Greetings are usually capitalized when written on cards, emails, text messages, etc., but Happy holidays and Season’s greetings are also possible.

  • Happy Holidays (includes all winter holidays)
  • Merry Christmas (preferred in American and Canadian English)
  • Happy Christmas (preferred in British English)
  • Happy Chanukah/Hanukkah
  • Happy Kwanzaa
  • Happy New Year
  • Season’s Greetings (formal)

Capitalization Rules

What about other common holiday phrases? You might not write these on a card, but they are often used in speaking and writing this time of year. When referring to a holiday, use capital letters (this includes the words “Day” and “Eve” when they are part of the holiday). Other words are lowercased as usual. Check out the following list for easy reference:

  • Christmas Eve
  • Christmas Day
  • Christmas morning
  • the night before Christmas
  • Christmastime (note: all one word)
  • Christmas dinner
  • Christmas brunch
  • New Year’s Eve
  • New Year’s Day
  • New Year's party
  • the new year
  • the first day of the year
  • Santa Claus
  • Santa
  • a Santa hat
  • a picture with Santa
  • Santa’s beard
  • the holiday spirit
  • winter holidays
  • Christmas holidays
  • Christmas Day is a stat holiday in Canada


To get your students practicing these expressions, check out ESL Library's holiday resources:

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Comments (2)


Thanks for sharing this useful post, I like it :)

Reply to Comment

Tanya Trusler(Author)

I'm glad you found it useful! Thanks!

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