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411. British Festivals and Holidays (Part 1)

Here’s an episode all about special days and celebrations in the British calendar. You’ll hear cultural information about holidays and customs, and some pronunciation work on how to say dates and the months of the year. Transcript and videos below.

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Introduction

This episode is being recorded before Christmas. I’m going to upload it sometime around Boxing Day I think. You’re probably listening during the Christmas period or the new year period. I hope you’re having a lovely time wherever you are and whatever you’re doing.

This episode is all about British festivals and holidays that occur throughout the year. Let’s look ahead to the coming year of 2017 and see what kinds of things Brits will be doing for certain special occasions.

I’m recording this because at some point earlier this year I got a message from a listener challenging me to talk about all the major British festivals and holidays in one episode and I said “challenge accepted”, and so now, finally, here is that episode! I don’t remember your name – I’m sorry! But here it is ok! The thing is – the challenge was to do it all in one episode and I have a feeling this is more than one episode because I’ve got lots of things to say about this!

The UK calendar is absolutely full of festivals of many kinds. In fact, there are festivals and special days in every month of the year. These festivals mark various special occasions connected to the passing of the seasons, important historical or religious events and significant people in the UK.

In this episode let’s explore those main festivals and public holidays, in rather fast style.

I’m from England, so my version might be a bit Anglo-centric, but I have tried to include a variety of festivals and not just the ones that seem significant to me as an individual.

This episode should be a great little journey through the UK calendar, and it should help you learn some more British culture. Also we’re going to look at how to pronounce the months, dates and days in British English.

So, without further ado, let’s get cracking! Here’s our whistle-stop tour of British festivals and holidays.

So, there are public holidays – days of statutory leave – days off given to us by law, and these are generally known as bank holidays, and there are festivals. Not every festival is a holiday.

So, bank holidays and festivals.

Bank Holidays
If you’ve lived in the UK you’ll know that a bank holiday is usually a wonderful, wonderful thing in theory. They usually happen on a Monday and sometimes on other days, but usually on a Monday. So a bank holiday is a long weekend. They’re usually associated with an old religious occasion or some other important reason for the state.

Three of these bank holidays take place in the summer, so everyone imagines they will be out in the garden having a barbecue or in the park having a picnic or something. In reality they probably involve getting caught in the rain in some way, perhaps while attempting to have a barbecue in the garden or picnic in the park or something.

Having our public holidays on Mondays is a great thing though, because it means you get a day off, and a long weekend. Shops and services are sometimes closed, which can be a bit annoying, but less so these days – in fact the shops tend to do quite well on a bank holiday weekend and so they stay open. So it can be a good day to go out shopping.

Banks are closed though, which can be a bit of a pain in the neck if you need to use your day off work to get something done at the bank.

These public holidays are originally called Bank Holidays because in 1871 certain days were designated in law as being days on which no financial transactions should take place, just like on Christmas Day. I suppose this was to give workers a few guaranteed days off a year – so that they didn’t get completely exhausted working in factories every day of the year. These days people have more statutory paid holidays – in fact everyone is entitled to 5.6 weeks of paid holiday per year. That may or may not include the bank holidays – it’s up to the employer. At the last company I worked for in London we had to work on bank holidays, which sucked a lot. While all my other friends were out attempting to have barbecues and getting caught in the rain, I was teaching English. But, it was a good school to work for so they allowed us to take our bank holidays as ‘days in lieu’ – days off which replaced the bank holidays that we worked. I would always take all my days in lieu during quiet periods at the school in December so I could do all my Christmas shopping.

These so-called Bank Holidays are scattered throughout the year, and they’ve been arranged to land on Mondays, corresponding to certain periods or events in the year.

So, instead of having specific dates, our holidays are matched to Mondays in the year, unlike in France where the public holidays always arrive on the same date – even if it’s a Saturday or Sunday (nightmare). Sometimes public holidays in France land on a Tuesday or Thursday and a lot of people ‘do the bridge’ which means that they take the Monday or Friday off as well, and enjoy a massive long weekend. If that happens, it seems the country grinds to a halt because everyone’s gone on holiday for most of the week.

We have 7 bank holidays in the year in the UK. A bank holiday weekend is a truly wonderful thing about life in the UK. It’s a long weekend, and you’re always guaranteed to get it. There are two in May, which makes that month a particularly good one in the UK. It’s normal to celebrate by having a barbecue or a party, or just going out and having fun in the sunshine.

Upcoming bank holidays in England and Wales

2017

2 January – Monday – New Year’s Day (substitute day) (if it falls on a weekend, they give you the next Monday off, which is nice)
14 April – Friday – Good Friday
17 April – Monday – Easter Monday (Easter is a fantastic 4-day weekend)
1 May – Monday – Early May bank holiday (it’s also called May Day and probably originates from Roman celebrations of the beginning of the summer period – in some countries there is Labour Day on 1 May, which celebrates the rights of workers, but we don’t do Labour Day – instead ours is the early May bank holiday – I think this is because the whole concept of bank holidays covers essentially the same purpose as Labour Day)
29 May – Monday – Spring bank holiday (This is also called the late May bank holiday and is connected to Pentecost – in fact it’s the first Monday after Pentecost. What’s Pentecost? It’s the Christian festival celebrating the descent of the Holy Spirit on the disciples of Jesus after his Ascension, held on the seventh Sunday after Easter. So, the first Monday after the seventh Sunday after Easter. Are you following this? Most people just find out from their employer, from the newspapers, friends or from a calendar they probably got for Christmas.
28 August – Monday – Summer bank holiday (Barbecue & disappointment season – it’s there to mark the end of the summer holidays)
25 December – Monday – Christmas Day
26 December – Tuesday – Boxing Day (Again, if Christmas Day or Boxing Day land on a weekend, then they give you the next available days off –  like in 2016 when you get a day off on the 27 because 25 landed on a Sunday)

How to say months and dates

In a moment I’m going to go through festivals and days of celebration or commemoration which happen in every month during the year.

Before I do that – let’s look at the pronunciation of the months of the year. I know you did this at school but I’m often surprised at how people still pronounce the months wrong. So just repeat the months of the year with me and think about how you’re saying them. Think about vowel sounds, the number of syllables and which syllable is stressed.

Let’s go. January – February – March – April – May – June – July – August – September – October – November – December

Also, let’s consider the way we say dates in the UK.

Day first and then month.

When we write we just add the number then the month. We add the little ‘th’ ‘rd’ or ‘st’ as well next to the number, but you don’t always have to. So we write 21 December or 21st December.

But when you say a date you have to remember to add the before the number, the ordinal – 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th etc and also of.

So it’s the 21st of December.

What’s the date today?

It’s the 21st of December.

In America they don’t know what they’re doing, so they put the month first.

Just joking, it’s fine. For the Americans they start with the month and don’t always include of.

“It’s December 21st” for example.

“What’s the date Mom? It’s December 21st, honey.”

Tell me these dates.

What date is Christmas Eve?

What date is Christmas Day?

What date is New Year’s Eve?

What date is New Year’s Day?

What date is Valentine’s Day?

What date is St Patrick’s Day? (17 March)

What date is your birthday?

What date is the summer solstice?

What date is Halloween?

What date is it today?

Festivals Throughout the Year

The following information is based on an article by the British Council, although I have paraphrased quite a lot and added quite a lot of stuff. Click here to read the full article where you can read more about each festival www.educationuk.org/global/articles/festivals-and-holidays/#january

Here’s a list of the festivals and celebrations throughout the year in the UK. This list includes traditional events, sporting events and I’ve also included some major music festivals in the UK – and if you spend some time in the UK I really recommend that you go to a music festival, they’re usually a lot of fun as long as it doesn’t rain!

January

1st – New Year’s Day. On New Year’s Eve (31 December), it is traditional to celebrate midnight with your friends or family and to sing ‘Auld lang syne’, a folk song with words by the Scottish poet Robert Burns, although to be honest I have never ever sung that song in my life! The party can last well into New Year’s Day! Many people make ‘New Year’s resolutions’, promising to achieve a goal or break a bad habit in the coming year. For me, New Year’s Eve is about these things: struggling to plan something to do, going to a house party and getting drunk, going out to a club or something and then having a nightmare getting home (no taxis), freezing cold outside, staying in and drinking wine, watching Jools Holland on the TV, not really wanting to do anything because you’ve already spent the week drinking and eating too much anyway.

In Scotland, the celebration of the new year is called Hogmanay. There are big parties across the country – expect lots of music, dancing, food and fireworks – but Edinburgh hosts some of the biggest.

25th – Burns’ Night (Scotland). This is the birthday of Robert Burns – who is basically the national poet of Scotland. Many Scottish people hold a special supper (dinner) on Burns’ Night, with toasts and readings of his poetry. Men might wear kilts, there may be bagpipe music, and people will almost certainly eat haggis (the traditional Scottish dish of sheeps’ heart, liver and lungs) with neeps (turnips) and tatties (potatoes). Sounds disgusting? It’s actually pretty tasty. I’ve never been to a Burns Night celebration because I’m English and it’s not our thing, but I bet it’s a lot of fun.

28th – Chinese New Year. Outside Asia, the world’s biggest celebration of Chinese New Year is in London – each year there is a parade through Chinatown in the West End, with free performances of music, dance and acrobatics, a feast of food and fireworks. There are many more events around the UK, so find out what’s on in your area – cities including Manchester, Nottingham, Liverpool and Birmingham usually host colourful street parties.

February

28th – Shrove Tuesday or ‘Pancake Day’. Lent is the traditional Christian period of fasting, which lasts for 40 days. Shrove Tuesday is the day before Lent, when households would traditionally use up their eggs, milk and sugar by making pancakes. Nowadays, even if they are not religious, many people still make and eat pancakes on this day.

Some towns in the UK also hold ‘pancake races’, where contestants toss pancakes in a frying pan while running for the finish line. One of the most famous is in Olney, Buckinghamshire, where it’s believed the first Pancake Day race took place in 1445.

I’ve never been to a pancake race. For me pancake day is all about making your own pancakes, probably ruining the first one because you have to burn one before the pan is ready. My favourite pancakes are just covered in nutella. Far too much nutella.

14th – Valentine’s Day. Historically this was the date of the Feast of St Valentine, nowadays this is a celebration of romance. Many people in the UK go out for dinner with their boyfriends or girlfriends, and give them a Valentine’s card, chocolate or flowers. If you’re single, you might receive an anonymous card from a ‘secret admirer’! For single people, Valentine’s Day can be a bit of a nightmare because you see all these smug couples getting together and going on dates. It can make you feel a bit lonely, or you might just reject it completely and do something totally at odds with the day. But couples can also have a slightly difficult time on Valentine’s Day – usually there’s pressure on the man to come up with some special romantic plan, and generally there is a feeling that Valentine’s Day is a sort of manufactured event by companies and marketing people. It’s actually quite unromantic, and some people just shun it completely, but in my experience if your girlfriend or wife says “Oh you don’t need to do anything for Valentine’s Day” then you definitely DO need to do something. Don’t be fooled by what she says. That also includes birthdays and anniversaries.

March

1st – St David’s Day (Wales). St David is the patron saint of Wales, and March 1 is a celebration of Welsh culture. People in Wales might wear a daffodil and eat a soup of seasonal vegetables and lamb or bacon. I’ve never eaten that in my life and to be honest I’d never ever heard of it, because I’m English. Events are held across Wales, including a large parade in Cardiff. As an English guy I’ve never been part of St David’s Day celebrations. All I remember is some people wearing daffodils at school when I was a kid.

17th – St Patrick’s Day (Northern Ireland). The Feast of St Patrick is a national holiday in Ireland, and is now celebrated by Irish communities all around the world. In the UK, there are St Patrick’s Day events in cities including Birmingham, Nottingham, Manchester and London, as well as Belfast. Many people go out with friends, wearing green or a shamrock symbol (the lucky clover) and drinking Guinness, the Irish dark beer. The tradition is to get completely pissed and wear a massive hat shaped like a Guinness glass or shamrock or some weird combination of the two – a shamrock beer glass hat thing that won’t protect your head against a hangover or any other form of brain damage that you might suffer on this evening as a result of alcohol poisoning, accidents, violence, or all three if it’s a really good night.

26th – Mother’s Day (or Mothering Sunday). Mother’s Day is a day to celebrate motherhood, and to thank mothers for everything they do throughout the year. Many people give their mothers a card or gift, treat them to a day out or cook a meal. I usually send a big bunch of flowers to my Mum and try to make her feel special. It’s the least I can do.

April

1st – April Fools’ Day. For one day of the year, it is acceptable – even encouraged – to play tricks, pranks and practical jokes. Even newspapers, TV and radio shows often feature fake stories on April 1. It’s customary to reveal the joke by saying ‘April fool!’ (the person who falls for the joke is the ‘fool’), and you’re supposed to stop playing tricks at midday. Some famous April fool jokes include ones done by the BBC – like in 1957 when a respected news programme called Panorama broadcasted a report about how spaghetti was harvested from trees in Switzerland.

It showed people climbing ladders to pick spaghetti that was hanging from the trees and collect it in baskets. Needless to say, many Brits were fooled by it.

Other tricks are things like, telling your students they have an emergency test that day, or just changing all the clocks in your house so everyone things they’re late. That kind of thing. It’s all harmless fun, until someone has a terrible accident or someone gets very upset and there’s a huge argument resulting in the end of a relationship or someone getting fired from their job. Just harmless fun.

Here’s that 1957 BBC April Fool’s Joke – check out the old-school heightened RP accent!

14th–17th – Easter weekend. Easter is a Christian holiday celebrating the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The date depends on the next full moon after the Vernal equinox (the first day of spring), so the dates change each year. It is always on a Sunday in March or April (called Easter Sunday), and the previous Friday (Good Friday) and following Monday (Easter Monday) are bank holidays. People celebrate Easter in different ways, but many give each other chocolate eggs and eat ‘hot cross buns’ (sweet buns with a cross design), while children decorate eggs or take part in Easter egg hunts. To listen to an episode I’ve already done about this, click here teacherluke.co.uk/2009/04/14/episode-2-easter/

23rd – St George’s Day (England). The legend is that St George was a soldier who killed a dragon to rescue a princess in the middle east somewhere. He is now the patron saint of England, and this is England’s national day. Yes, I don’t understand it either really. You might still see St George’s Cross (a red cross on a white background, England’s national flag) or events with morris dancing (an English folk dance), but it is not a bank holiday and most people don’t hold special celebrations. That’s right – we just don’t really care about St George’s Day. In fact, this is quite interesting as you’ll see that English people are quietly a bit modest about their country. We don’t celebrate the national day, we have some negative associations with our flag (although I’m sure plenty of people would disagree with me – I think it’s true), and we’d rather be patriotic about the UK than about England. Honestly, this is because England has done some pretty naughty things in the past like colonising other countries, going on crusades, smashing up towns after football games, invading our neighbouring countries and tying them into a union with us, then dominating that union with our values – unfortunately these are the values that many people associate with the English flag, and we don’t really know how to celebrate our saint’s day. I think, with Scottish Independence, there are moves to reclaim Englishness from the nationalists, and redefine it, but I feel like whenever someone proudly claims they are English and waves the English flag – it just smells of right-wing nationalism, hooliganism, skinheads, violence and stuff like that. Pity really because there shouldn’t be anything wrong with being English any more, especially if Scotland is given its independence. Also, I guess it is hard for many English people to feel a connection to Saint George considering the story is about a guy who probably wasn’t English anyway – it turns out he was actually born in Turkey and became a Roman soldier – and that confuses us. Still, it is about a knight who killed a dragon which sounds pretty cool.

Here’s a version of the story from a website called “Project Britain” which sounds like it was created by a Brexiteer – but then again my podcast is called “Luke’s English Podcast” which could also sound like a nationalistic right-wing podcast run by the English Defence League or something. You’re listening to Luke’s English Podcast and we want England to be back English again! No thanks.

Anyway, here’s a version of the Saint George & The Dragon Story – I have no idea who wrote it or to what extent it is fact checked or even based on anything that actually happened. In fact it reads like pretty much every other fairy tale story of a knight defeating a dragon to rescue a princess. projectbritain.com/stgeorge2.html  

320. A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

It’s Christmas! So in this episode I’m going to read you a classic Christmas story – A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. You can read the story as well as listen because the whole thing is included on the page for this episode.

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Welcome to this special Christmas edition of Luke’s English podcast. I’m feeling very Christmassy here. All my shopping has been done and I’m looking forward to getting together with my family tomorrow. I’m just here with a lovely warm fire, and I’ve managed to find the time to tell you a story in this episode.

But first I’d just like to say Merry Christmas to all of you around the world. I hope you’re spending a pleasant time full of yuletide cheer and festive spirit, even if Christmas isn’t something you celebrate. I usually like to do a special Christmas themed episode of Luke’s English Podcast at this time of year. In the past I’ve done other Christmas episodes and you can check them out if you haven’t already done that.

78. Christmas – It’s all about Family

158. A Cup of Tea with Paul Taylor (Part 1)

159. A Cup of Tea with Paul Taylor (Part 2)

160. The A to Z of Christmas

245. Merry Christmas! (+ Other News) + Video!

What are you doing for Christmas this year? Are you doing anything special? As usual I’m going back to my parents’ place for a few days. They live in Warwick, which is in the midlands not far from Stratford Upon Avon, where Shakespeare was born. I expect we’ll be doing the usual Christmas things: eating loads of food, playing lots of games and giving each other presents. I might record a few podcasts with my family too, if we get a break from all the festivities at any time.

In this episode we’re going to eat a nice big slice of Christmas podcast cake, in the form of a classic story by Charles Dickens – “A Christmas Carol”. It’s a story that many people know and is firmly associated with the general sentiment of Christmas in modern Britain, and other parts of the world no doubt – the idea that Christmas is a time of generosity, of stopping your work and focusing on the important things in life, like your family. I’m going to read you a version of this story, which you can find reproduced on the page for this episode if you’d like to read with me. In fact, this episode is almost 100% transcribed.

I found this version on a website called Family Christmas Online. Just go to familychristmasonline.com to find more Christmas themed stuff. Credit should go to Theresa Race Hoffman who edited this version for public readings. familychristmasonline.com/stories_other/a_christmas_carol/a_christmas_carol.htm

It’s a reduced version and I’ve also modified it slightly to make some of the language more up-to-date but generally the style is quite similar to the original which was written by Charles Dickens in 1843.

Before I read the story to you, here’s a preface about how A Christmas Carol Made Charles Dickens One of England’s Best-Loved Writers

Preface

Sometime in 1843, Dickens decided to publish a quality Christmas book that would reach people in two ways:
It would use a very original story to plead for compassion for the poor, and
It would be affordable, bringing quality literature in a well-made book to a wide audience.

Dickens’ publisher didn’t believe in the project, so Dickens ended up financing the book himself. He spent money on a quality leather binding and on many quality illustrations, several of which were hand-tinted, an expensive process. As a result, the first printing of A Christmas Carol made very little money, but it rapidly became Dickens’ most popular work. The book was soon reprinted and was adapted for the stage. In later years Dickens often read a shortened version of the story aloud. A Christmas Carol has never faded from popularity since. IN fact there have been a few different film versions of the story, including A Muppets Christmas Carol, starring Michael Caine – which is acually a touching and beautiful telling of the story.

How A Christmas Carol Helped Change the Way We Think About Christmas

By the time A Christmas Carol was published, Christmas in Britain had disintegrated into an excuse for a week of year-end partying. Not only had Christ become absent from English Christmases, but so had compassion, a virtue that Dickens believed that the poor greatly needed, especially at the onset of cold weather each year. A Christmas Carol helped the English, and eventually the people of many countries, gain a new appreciation for Christmas and for the plight of the poor. Perhaps the greatest change was the growing importance of family Christmas celebrations in a culture where the wealthy had often sent their children to the nursery early on Christmas so they could better enjoy their dances and parties. As an example, author Tim Hallinan* claims that December sales of toys rose dramatically in the decades following A Christmas Carol’s publication. Today, many people in the world tend to think of Victorian England as a time and place where Christmas was “done right.” But without the influence of Dickens and this story, such hearty celebrations of good will may never have occurred.

Preface to A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens

I have endeavoured in this Ghostly little book, to raise the Ghost of an Idea, which shall not put my readers out of humour with themselves, with each other, with the season, or with me. May it haunt their houses pleasantly, and no one wish to lay it. Their faithful Friend and Servant, C.D.
December, 1843.

So, let’s begin the story. Here it is. A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens.

PART 1 – Marley’s Ghost

MARLEY was dead: to begin with. Old Marley was as dead as a door-nail. This must be understood, or this story will mean nothing to anybody. So, we start with the fact that Scrooge’s business partner Marley had snuffed it, he was pushing up the daisies, he was an ex-partner, he’d carked it. He was a goner. He was dead. Scrooge now carried on the moneylending business alone.

He never painted out Old Marley’s name on the door of the office, even though his old partner was – definitely – dead. The company was known as Scrooge and Marley. Sometimes people called Scrooge Scrooge, and sometimes they called him Marley, but he answered to both names. It was all the same to him.

Oh! Scrooge was a selfish old git! He was as cold as a freezing winter night, and he didn’t thaw one degree at Christmas. He hated Christmas and everything it stood for. No ‘season of goodwill’ – for him it was just another excuse to grumble and moan, and stay at home counting his money.

One dark Christmas Eve, old Scrooge sat busy in his counting-house. It was biting, foggy weather.

Scrooge had a very small fire in his office. But next door in his clerk’s office the poor fire was even smaller and barely warm. His poor clerk, called Bob Cratchit had worked for Scrooge for years, and yet had never received a pay rise. Scrooge always paid him the minimum wage.

“Merry Christmas, uncle!” said Scrooge’s nephew Fred coming into the room.

“Bah!” said Scrooge, “Humbug!”

“Christmas a humbug, uncle?” he said. “You don’t mean that do you?”

“If I could work my will,” said Scrooge indignantly, “every idiot who goes about with ‘Merry Christmas’ on his lips, should be boiled with his own pudding, and buried with a stake of holly through his heart!”

The nephew answered, “Don’t be angry, uncle. Come to our place for Christmas tomorrow.”

“Bah, humbug! Christmas! Don’t talk to me about Christmas. It’s all just a big jumped up shopping spree invented by the Americans. The whole thing is just invented to get your money out of your pocket! Well, not mine – I’m keeping mine. You do Christmas your way, and I’ll do it my way. Here on my own, just like every other day, thanks very much!”

“Suit yourself Uncle, but we’ll miss you this year, again” said Scrooge’s nephew. “Merry Christmas, uncle!”

“Good afternoon!” said Scrooge.

His nephew even stopped to wish “Merry Christmas” to the clerk.

The poor, cold clerk, Bob Cratchit, managed a thin smile and a weak “merry Christmas” in return as Scrooge’s nephew left.

As he left, Fred let two other people in. They entered and bowed to Scrooge.

“Mr. Scrooge, or Mr. Marley?” said one of the gentlemen.

“Mr. Marley,” Scrooge replied, “died seven years ago, this very night.”

“Oh, sorry for your loss” said one of the men.

“What do you want?” snapped Scrooge.

“Mr. Scrooge,” said the gentleman, “It looks like it’s going to be an especially freezing winter this year. A few of us are going to buy some meat and drink for the Poor, and some blankets to keep them warm this Christmas. What would you like to give?”

“Nothing,” said Scrooge. “If they’ve got no money they can borrow it, or failing that go to the debtors’ prisons.”

“Many would rather die.”

“If they would rather die,” said Scrooge, “they had better do it, and decrease the surplus population. Good afternoon, gentlemen!”

Scrooge went back to his work.

Meanwhile the fog and darkness and biting cold thickened. Some carol singers walked by Scrooge’s office. One cold young boy stooped down at Scrooge’s keyhole to sing a Christmas carol:

“God bless you, merry gentleman!
May nothing you dismay!”

As soon as he heard it Scrooge jumped up so that the singer fled in terror, leaving the keyhole to the fog.

At length the hour of shutting up arrived. Scrooge nodded to the clerk Mr Cratchit, who instantly snuffed his candle out, and put on his hat.

“You’ll want all day off tomorrow, I suppose?” said Scrooge.

“Yes please Mr Scrooge. It is only once a year after all”

“A poor excuse for picking a man’s pocket every twenty-fifth of December!” said Scrooge. “No day off for you. I expect you to be here extra early next morning.”

Scrooge went home to his gloomy house. The yard was dark and the fog and frost hung about the place.

Now, the knocker on his door was very large and ordinary. But tonight it looked like – Marley’s face.

Marley’s face. The eyes were wide open, and its grayish colour made it horrible in the half light.

As Scrooge looked, it became a knocker again. He did look carefully, but the knocker was still a knocker.

“Load of old nonsense!” said Scrooge to himself.

He closed his door and double-locked himself in. He walked through his rooms to see that all was right and sat by the fire.

“Humbug!” he said. “Stupid Christmas. I’ll be glad when it’s all over and people start acting normally again.”

And then he heard it – a clanking noise, from the cellar, as if some person were dragging a heavy chain.

Scrooge tried to ignore it, and opened his paper.

Then he heard the sound again. The noise of heavy chains being dragged, and a faint sound of moaning.

Scrooge suddenly sat upright in his chair. The noise was real, and it was getting louder.

Suddenly the cellar-door flew open with a booming sound, and then he heard the noise coming up the stairs; then straight towards his door.

Quickly it came on through the heavy door, and passed into the room before his eyes.

It was Marley, back from the dead. The chain Marley pulled was long, and made of cash-boxes, keys, padlocks, and purses. His body was transparent; so that Scrooge could see the two buttons on his coat hanging on the door behind.

“What do you want with me?” said Scrooge. “Who are you?”

“In life I was your partner, Jacob Marley.”

“Humbug, I tell you! humbug!”

At this the spirit raised a frightful cry, and shook its chain. Scrooge fell upon his knees.

Asked the Ghost, “Do you believe in me or not?”

“I do,” said Scrooge. “I do! But why do spirits walk the earth, and why do they come to me?”

“It is required of every man,” the Ghost returned, “that the spirit within him should walk abroad among his fellow men; and if that spirit does not go forth in life, it is condemned to do so after death!”

“You are chained,” said Scrooge, trembling. “Tell me why?”

“I wear the chain I forged in life and by the very work I did, with you,” replied the Ghost. “I made it link by link, and yard by yard; and of my own free will I wore it.” Scrooge trembled more and more.

“Do you know,” pursued the Ghost, “your chain was as heavy as this, seven Christmas Eves ago? You have made it longer, since then.”

“But you were always a good man of business, Jacob,” faltered Scrooge.

“Business!” cried the Ghost, wringing its hands again. “Mankind was my business. Greed was my business! I spent my life on this earth obsessing over money and mistreating the poor and wretched to fill my pocket. Old Scrooge,  I am  condemned to walk the earth for eternity never to find rest or peace.”

“I am here to-night to warn you,” pursued the Ghost. You will be haunted by Three Spirits.”

“I—I think I’d rather not,” said Scrooge.

“They will come to teach you a lesson. Expect the first to-morrow,” said the Ghost, “when the bell tolls One.”

“Expect the second on the next night at the same hour. The third upon the next night at the last stroke of Twelve.”

When it had said these words, the spectre floated out upon the bleak, dark night.

The air was filled with moaning phantoms, and every one of them wore chains like Marley’s Ghost. They faded away. Scrooge closed the window, and examined the door by which the Ghost had entered. It was still as he had double-locked, with his own hands. He tried to say “Humbug!” but stopped. And he went straight to bed and fell asleep upon the instant.

PART 2 – The First of the Three Spirits

WHEN Scrooge awoke, it was dark. The chimes of a neighbouring church struck the hour, with a single deep, melancholy note.

Light flashed up in the room, and the curtains of his bed were drawn aside by a hand. And Scrooge found himself face to face with the unearthly visitor who drew them, right in front of his face.

It was a strange figure—like a child, or an old man. Its white hair hung about its neck and down its back, and yet the face had not a wrinkle in it. Its legs and feet were bare. It wore a white tunic with a shining belt. It held a branch of fresh green holly in its hand; and had its dress trimmed with summer flowers

“Are you the Spirit whose coming was foretold to me?” asked Scrooge.

The voice was soft and gentle. “I am the Ghost of Christmas Past.”

“Long Past?” inquired Scrooge.

“No. Your past.”

It put out its strong hand and clasped him gently by the arm.

“Rise! and walk with me!”

They passed through the wall, and stood upon an open country road. Now it was a clear, cold, winter day, with snow upon the ground.

“Good Heavens!” said Scrooge. “I was a boy in this place!” He wiped away a tear and begged the Ghost to lead him.

“You recollect the way?” inquired the Spirit.

“Remember it!” cried Scrooge. “I could walk it blindfolded.”

They walked along the road, Scrooge recognizing every gate and tree; until a little town appeared in the distance. Some shaggy ponies trotted towards them with boys upon their backs. All these boys shouted to each other merrily. Scrooge knew and named them every one. “These are but shadows of the things that have been,” said the Ghost. “They do not see us.”

But why was he filled with gladness when he heard them tell each other Merry Christmas, as they parted! What was Merry Christmas to Scrooge? What good had it ever done to him?

“The school is not quite deserted,” said the Ghost. “A lonely child, neglected by his friends, is there still.”

Scrooge said he knew it. And he cried.

They soon approached a large house, its windows broken, and the many rooms cold, and bare of food.

They went, the Ghost and Scrooge, to the back of the house, and a room with desks. At one of these a lonely boy was reading near a feeble fire; and Scrooge sat down, beside his poor forgotten self as he used to be. He said “Poor boy!” and cried again.

“I wish,” Scrooge muttered, after drying his eyes with his cuff: “but it’s too late now.”

“What is the matter?” asked the Spirit.

“Nothing,” said Scrooge. “Nothing. There was a boy singing a Christmas Carol at my door last night. I should have given him something: that’s all.”

The Ghost smiled thoughtfully, and waved its hand: saying as it did so, “Let us see another Christmas!”

And there he was, alone again, when all the other boys had gone home for the holidays.

The door opened; and a little girl came darting in, and put her arms about his neck.

“I have come to bring you home, dear brother!” said the child. “We’re to be together all the Christmas long, and have the merriest time in all the world.”

“Your sister,” said the Ghost. “Always a delicate creature. But she had a large heart!”

“So she had,” cried Scrooge. “You’re right, Spirit!”

“She died a woman,” said the Ghost, “and had, I think, one child – your nephew”

Scrooge answered sadly, “Yes.”

All at once they were in a busy city. Here too it was Christmas time again; but it was evening, and the streets were lighted up.

The Ghost stopped at a warehouse door, and asked Scrooge if he knew it.

“Know it!” said Scrooge. “I was apprenticed here!”

At sight of an old gentleman, behind a high desk, Scrooge cried in great excitement:

“Why, bless his heart; it’s Fezziwig alive again! My old boss!”

Scrooge’s former self, now a young man, came in, beside his fellow apprentice.

Old Fezziwig laid down his pen, and looked up at the clock. He rubbed his hands and called out in a rich voice:

“No more work to-night, my boys!” said Fezziwig. “Christmas Eve, Dick. Christmas, Ebenezer! Clear away, lads!”

It was done in a minute. The floor was swept, the lamps were trimmed, fuel was heaped upon the fire; and the warehouse became a snug, warm, and bright ball-room.

In came a fiddler with a music-book. In came Mrs. Fezziwig, and the three Miss Fezziwigs,. In came all the young men and women employed in the business, the housemaid, the baker, the cook, the milkman. Away they all went, twenty couples at once!

There were dances, and games, and there was cake, and Roast Beef, and mince-pies, and plenty of ale.

During all this time, Scrooge had acted like a man out of his wits. He enjoyed everything. Now that he remembered the Ghost, he became conscious that it was looking full upon him.

“A small matter,” said the Ghost, “to make these silly folks so full of gratitude.”

“Small!” echoed Scrooge. “It isn’t that, Spirit. He has the power to make our work a pleasure or a toil. The happiness he gives, is quite as great as if it cost a fortune.”

He stopped.

“What is the matter?” asked the Ghost.

“Nothing particular,” said Scrooge.

“Something, I think?” the Ghost insisted.

“No,” said Scrooge, “No. I should like to be able to say a word or two to my clerk just now. That’s all.”

Scrooge and the Ghost again stood in the open air.

“My time grows short,” observed the Spirit. “Quick!”

Again Scrooge saw himself. He was older now. He was not alone, but sat by a pretty young girl: in her eyes there were tears.

“It matters little to you,” she said, softly. “Another idol has taken my place. It is the love of money. Good-bye. May you be happy in the life you have chosen!”

“Spirit!” cried Scrooge, “show me no more! I cannot bear it! Leave me! Take me back. Haunt me no longer!”

He was conscious of being exhausted, and of being in his own bedroom. He had barely time to reel to bed, before he sank into a heavy sleep.

PART 3 – The Second of the Three Spirits

Scrooge waited again.

Now, when the Bell struck One, he saw a ghostly light coming from the next room. He shuffled to the door.

A strange voice called him by his name, and bade him enter.

The room was hung with holly and mistletoe, and a mighty blaze went roaring up the chimney. Heaped up like a throne were geese, pies, plum-puddings, chestnuts, oranges, pears, cakes, and punch. Upon this food couch, there sat a jolly Giant, who held a glowing torch high up, to shed its light on Scrooge.

“Come in!” exclaimed the Ghost, “and know me better, man!” Scrooge entered timidly, and hung his head.

“I am the Ghost of Christmas Present,” said the Spirit. “Look upon me!”

Scrooge reverently did so. It was clothed in a green robe, bordered with white fur. Its feet were bare; and on its head it wore a holly wreath, set here and there with shining icicles.

“You have never seen the like of me before!” exclaimed the Spirit.

“Spirit,” said Scrooge, “conduct me where you will. I went forth last night and I learnt a lesson which is working now. To-night, if you have anything to teach me, let me profit by it.”

“Touch my robe!”

Feast, fire, room all vanished instantly and they stood in the city streets on a snowy Christmas morning.

The sky was gloomy, and yet was there an air of cheerfulness like a summer day.

Soon the steeples called the people to church, and away they came, flocking through the streets in their best clothes, and with their happiest faces.

The good Spirit led him straight to Scrooge’s clerk’s, holding on to his robe; and at the door the Spirit smiled, and stopped to bless Bob Cratchit’s dwelling. Think of that! Bob had but fifteen shillings a-week himself; and yet the Ghost of Christmas Present blessed his little house!

Then up rose Mrs. Cratchit, dressed poorly in a worn dress.

“What has ever got your precious father then?” said Mrs. Cratchit to the little Cratchits. “And your brother, Tiny Tim.”

In came Bob, the father, in his threadbare clothes; and Tiny Tim upon his shoulder. Sadly, Tiny Tim held a little crutch!

“And how did little Tim behave?” asked Mrs. Cratchit.

“As good as gold,” said Bob. “He told me, that he hoped the people saw him in the church, because he was a cripple, and it might be pleasant to them to remember upon Christmas Day, who made lame beggars walk, and blind men see.”

At last the dishes were set on, and grace was said. Bob said he didn’t believe there ever was such a goose cooked. Mrs. Cratchit brought in the pudding, like a speckled cannon-ball, blazing with brandy, and with Christmas holly stuck into the top. A wonderful pudding!

Bob proposed a toast:

“A Merry Christmas to us all, my dears. God bless us!”

“God bless us every one!” said Tiny Tim, the last of all.

He sat very close to his father’s side upon his little stool. Bob held his withered little hand in his, as if he loved the child, and wished to keep him by his side, and dreaded that he might be taken from him.

“Spirit,” said Scrooge, with an interest he had never felt before, “tell me if Tiny Tim will live.”

“I see a vacant seat,” replied the Ghost, “in the corner, and a crutch without an owner, carefully preserved. If these shadows remain unaltered by the Future, the child will die.”

“No, no,” said Scrooge. “Oh, no, kind Spirit! say he will be spared.”

“If these shadows remain unaltered by the Future, he will die this year,” repeated the Ghost. “What then? If he is going to die, he had better do it, and decrease the surplus population.”

Scrooge hung his head, ashamed to hear his own words.

“Man,” said the Ghost, “will you decide what men shall live, what men shall die? It may be, that in the sight of Heaven, you are more worthless and less fit to live than millions like this poor man’s child!”

But now Scrooge heard his own name.

“Mr. Scrooge!” toasted Bob; “I’ll give you Mr. Scrooge, the Founder of the Feast!”

“The Founder of the Feast indeed!” cried Mrs. Cratchit, reddening.

“My dear,” was Bob’s mild answer, “Christmas Day.”

“I’ll drink to his health, for your sake and the Day’s,” said Mrs. Cratchit, “Long life to him! A merry Christmas and a happy new year!”

The children drank the toast after her, but they didn’t care for it. Scrooge was the Ogre of the family. The mention of his name cast a dark shadow on the party.

By-and-bye they had a song from Tiny Tim, who had a sweet little voice, and sang it very well indeed.

They were not a handsome family; they were not well dressed. But, they were happy, grateful, pleased with one another, and contented with the time. Scrooge watched them, and especially on Tiny Tim, until the last.

And now, they traveled through coal miners’ homes, past ships on the dark sea. And everywhere they went, no matter how poor, every person hummed a Christmas tune, or had a Christmas thought. And every person, good or bad, had a kind word for another on that day.

Scrooge heard a hearty laugh and recognised it as his own nephew’s. He found himself in a bright, gleaming room, with the Spirit standing smiling by his side.

“Ha, ha!” laughed Scrooge’s nephew. “He said that Christmas was a humbug, as I live! He believed it too!”

“More shame for him, Fred!” said Scrooge’s niece, indignantly.

“He’s a comical old fellow,” said Scrooge’s nephew, “and not so pleasant as he might be. However, his offences carry their own punishment, and I am sorry for him. Who suffers by his ill temper! Himself, always.”

They had some music and played at games; for it is good to be children sometimes, and never better than at Christmas.

They all played and sang, and so did Scrooge, singing quite loud. He begged like a boy to be allowed to stay until the guests departed. But this the Spirit said could not be done.

Much they saw, and far they went, and everywhere the Spirit went he left his blessing. It was a long night, and Scrooge noticed that the Ghost grew older, and he noticed that its hair was grey.

“Are spirits’ lives so short?” asked Scrooge.

“My life upon this globe, is very brief,” replied the Ghost. “It ends to-night at midnight. Listen! The time is drawing near.”

The bell struck twelve. And the Spirit disappeared. As the last stroke ceased to vibrate, he remembered the prediction of old Jacob Marley, and lifting up his eyes, beheld a solemn Phantom, draped and hooded, coming, like a mist along the ground, towards him.

PART 4 – The Last of the Spirits

THE Phantom approached, in a deep black garment, which left nothing of it visible save one boney hand.

“I am in the presence of the Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come?” said Scrooge. “You are about to show me shadows of the things that will happen. Is that so, Spirit?”

Scrooge’s legs trembled beneath him.

“Ghost of the Future!” he exclaimed, “I fear you more than any spectre I have seen. But I know your purpose is to do me good, and I am prepared to bear you company, and do it with a thankful heart. Will you not speak to me?”

It gave him no reply. The hand was pointed straight ahead.

“Lead on!” said Scrooge. “Lead on! The night is precious time to me, I know. Lead on, Spirit!”

The Phantom moved away.

They were in the heart of the city; amongst the merchants; who hurried up and down, and chinked the money in their pockets, as Scrooge had seen them often.

The Spirit stopped beside one little knot of business men, pointing to them, Scrooge advanced to listen to their talk.

“No,” said a great fat man with a monstrous chin, “I don’t know much about it. I only know he’s dead.”

“When did he die?” inquired another.

“Last night, I believe.”

“What has he done with his money?”

“I haven’t heard,” said the man with the large chin, yawning. “It’s likely to be a very cheap funeral, for I don’t know of anybody to go to it.”

“I don’t mind going if a lunch is provided,” laughed one gentleman.

Scrooge knew the men, and looked towards the Spirit for an explanation.

Scrooge fancied that the Unseen Eyes of the ghost were looking at him closely. It made him shudder, and feel very cold.

They went into a dirty part of town where the shops and houses reeked with filth and misery.

There was a shop where greasy junk was bought. Scrooge and the Phantom came into this shop of Old Joe’s, just as two women and a man carried in bundles, laughing.

The man produced his plunder first. A pencil-case and a brooch were all. Old Joe added up his prices, upon the wall.

“I know those things,” Scrooge said. “They are just like mine – and they are worth much more than this man is paying!”

“Who’s next?” said Joe.

Mrs. Dilber was next. Sheets and towels, two old-fashioned silver teaspoons, a pair of sugar-tongs, and a few boots. Her account was stated on the wall in the same manner. “I paid two shillings ten for teaspoons just like those,” Scrooge objected.

“And now undo my bundle, Joe,” said the next woman.

Joe dragged out a large and heavy roll of some dark stuff, the same fabric and color as Scrooge’s bed curtains..

“Bed-curtains!” said Joe. “You don’t mean to say you took ’em down, rings and all, with him lying there dead?”

“Yes I do,” replied the woman. “Why not?”

“His blankets too?” asked Joe.

“Whose else’s do you think?” replied the woman. “And that’s the best shirt he had, and a fine one too. They’d have wasted it, if it hadn’t been for me. Putting it on him to be buried in,” she laughed. “But I took it off again.”

Scrooge looked at a shirt just like his own shirt and listened in horror.

“Ha, ha!” laughed the same woman, when old Joe paid the three out. “This is the end of it, you see! He frightened every one away from him when he was alive, to profit us when he was dead!”

“Spirit!” said Scrooge, shuddering from head to foot. “I see, I see. The case of this unhappy man might be my own. – Merciful Heaven, what is this!”

He recoiled in terror, for the scene had changed, and now he almost touched a bed: a bare, uncurtained bed: on which, beneath a ragged sheet, there lay the body of this man.

He lay, in the dark empty house, with no one to tell his story or mourn his death. “Spirit!” Scrooge said, “this is a fearful place. Let us go!”

The Ghost conducted him to poor Bob Cratchit’s house; and found the mother and the children seated round the fire.

Very quiet. The little Cratchits were as still as statues in one corner, with Peter, who had a book before him. The mother and her daughters were sewing. But surely they were very quiet!

The mother laid her work upon the table, and put her hand up to her face. “ It must be past your father’s time,” she said .

Peter said, shutting up his book. “But I think he has walked a little slower than he used, these few last evenings, mother.”

At last she said, “He used to walk with Tiny Tim upon his shoulder, very fast indeed. But he was very light to carry, and his father loved him so. Ah – there is your father at the door!”

She hurried out to meet him. Bob broke down all at once and cried. He couldn’t help it.

They drew about the fire, and talked. Bob told them of the extraordinary kindness of Mr. Scrooge’s nephew, whom he had scarcely seen but once. “‘I am heartily sorry for it, Mr. Cratchit,’ Fred had said, ‘and sorry for your good wife.’ I am sure we shall none of us forget poor Tiny Tim—shall we?”

“Never, father!” cried they all.

“Spectre,” said Scrooge, “tell me what man that was whom we saw lying dead?”

The Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come did not answer, but led him straight on, until they reached an iron gate.

A churchyard. Here, then; the wretched man whose name he had now to learn, lay underneath the ground

“Answer me one question,” said Scrooge. “Are these the shadows of the things that Will be, or are they shadows of things that May be, only?” The Spirit stood among the graves, and pointed down to one. Scrooge followed the finger, and read upon the stone of the grave his own name, EBENEZER SCROOGE.

The finger pointed from the grave to him, and back again.

“No, Spirit! Oh no, no!”

The finger still was there.

“Spirit!” he cried, tightly clutching at its robe, “hear me! I am not the man I was. Why show me this, if I am past all hope!”

For the first time the hand appeared to shake.

“Good Spirit,” he pursued, “I will honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year. I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future. The Spirits of all Three shall strive within me. I will not shut out the lessons that they teach. Oh, tell me I can sponge away the writing on this stone!”

In his agony, he caught the spectral hand. The Phantom’s hood and dress shrunk, collapsed, and dwindled down into a bedpost.

PART 5 – The End of it

YES! and the bedpost was his own. The bed was his own, the room was his own. Best and happiest of all, the Time before him was his own, to make amends in!

“I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future!” Scrooge repeated, as he scrambled out of bed. “The Spirits of all Three shall strive within me. Oh Jacob Marley! Heaven, and the Christmas Time be praised for this! I say it on my knees, old Jacob; on my knees!”

His face was wet with tears.

“They are not torn down,” cried Scrooge, folding one of his bed-curtains in his arms, “they are not torn down, rings and all. They are here—I am here—the shadows of the things that would have been, may be dispelled. They will be. I know they will!”

“I don’t know what to do!” cried Scrooge, laughing and crying in the same breath. “I am as light as a feather, I am as happy as an angel, I am as merry as a schoolboy. I am as giddy as a drunken man. A merry Christmas to everybody! A happy New Year to all the world.”

He had frisked into the sitting-room, and was now standing there.

“There’s the door, by which the Ghost of Jacob Marley entered!” cried Scrooge, starting off again, and going round the fireplace. “There’s the corner where the Ghost of Christmas Present, sat! There’s the window where I saw the wandering Spirits! It’s all right, it’s all true, it all happened. Ha ha ha!”

Really, for a man who had been out of practice for so many years, it was a splendid laugh.

“I don’t know what day of the month it is!” said Scrooge. “I don’t know how long I’ve been among the Spirits. I don’t know anything. Never mind. I don’t care!”

The churches began ringing out louder and clearer than he had ever heard. Clash, clang, hammer; ding, dong, bell. What a glorious, glorious sound!

Running to the window, he opened it, and put out his head. No fog, no mist; clear, bright, cold. Golden sunlight; Heavenly sky; sweet fresh air; merry bells. What a glorious Glorious day!

“What’s to-day!” cried Scrooge, calling downward to a boy in Sunday clothes.

“EH?” returned the boy.

“What’s to-day, my fine fellow?” said Scrooge.

“To-day!” replied the boy. “Why, it’s CHRISTMAS DAY sir.”

“It’s Christmas Day!” said Scrooge to himself. “I haven’t missed it. The Spirits have done it all in one night. They can do anything they like. Of course they can. Of course they can. Hello, my fine fellow!”

“Hello!” returned the boy.

“Do you know the poultry shop, in the next street, at the corner?” Scrooge inquired.

“I certainly do,” replied the lad.

“An intelligent boy!” said Scrooge. “A remarkable boy! Do you know whether they’ve sold the prize Turkey that was hanging up there?—Not the little prize Turkey: the big one?”

“What, the one as big as me?” returned the boy.

“What a delightful boy!” said Scrooge. “Yes, yes!”

“It’s hanging there now,” replied the boy.

“Is it?” said Scrooge. “Go and buy it.”

“What!” exclaimed the boy.

“I am in earnest,” said Scrooge. “Go and tell ’em to bring it here, that I may give them the direction where to take it. Come back with the man, and I’ll give you a shilling. Come back with him in less than five minutes and I’ll give you half-a-crown!”

The boy was off like a shot.

“I’ll send it to Bob Cratchit’s!” whispered Scrooge, rubbing his hands, and splitting with a laugh. “He sha’n’t know who sends it. It’s twice the size of Tiny Tim!”

He wrote the address somehow, and went down-stairs to open the street door, ready for the coming of the poulterer’s man. As he stood there, waiting his arrival, the knocker caught his eye.

“I shall love it, as long as I live!” cried Scrooge, patting it with his hand. “It’s a wonderful knocker!— Here’s the Turkey! Hello again! Merry Christmas!”

It was a Turkey!

“Why, it’s impossible to carry that to Camden Town,” said Scrooge. “You must have a cab.”

The chuckle with which he said this, and the chuckle with which he paid for the Turkey, and the chuckle with which he paid for the cab, and the chuckle with which he paid the boy, were only to be exceeded by the chuckle with which he sat down breathless in his chair again, and chuckled till he cried.

He dressed himself up “all in his best,” and at last got out into the streets. The people were by this time pouring forth, as he had seen them with the Ghost of Christmas Present; and Scrooge regarded every one with a delighted smile. Three or four good-humoured fellows said, “Good morning, sir! A merry Christmas to you!” And Scrooge said often afterwards, that of all the happy sounds he had ever heard, those were the happiest in his ears.

He had not gone far, when coming on towards him he beheld the gentleman, who had walked into his counting-house the day before. It sent a pang across his heart to think how this old gentleman would look upon him when they met; but he knew what path lay straight before him, and he took it.

“My dear sir,” said Scrooge, quickening his pace, and taking the old gentleman by both his hands. “How do you do? I hope you succeeded yesterday. It was very kind of you. A merry Christmas to you, sir! Allow me to ask your pardon. And will you have the goodness to allow me to give you” —here Scrooge whispered in his ear.

“Goodnss me!” cried the gentleman, as if his breath were taken away. “My dear Mr. Scrooge, are you serious?”

“If you please,” said Scrooge. “Not a farthing less. A great many back-payments are included in it, I assure you. Will you do me that favour?”

“My dear sir,” said the other, shaking hands with him. “I don’t know what to say—”

“Don’t say anything, please,” retorted Scrooge. “Will you come and see me?”

“I will!” cried the old gentleman. And it was clear he meant to do it.

“Thank you,” said Scrooge. “I am much obliged to you. I thank you fifty times and god bless you!”

He went to church, and walked about the streets, and watched the people hurrying to and fro, and patted children on the head, and found that everything could give him pleasure. He had never dreamed that anything could give him so much happiness. In the afternoon he turned his steps towards his nephew’s house.

He passed the door a dozen times, before he had the courage to go up and knock. But he made a dash, and did it:

“Is your master at home, my dear?” said Scrooge to the girl.

“Yes, sir.”

“Where is he, my love?” said Scrooge.

“He’s in the dining-room, sir, along with mistress. I’ll show you up-stairs, if you please.”

“He knows me,” said Scrooge, with his hand already on the dining-room lock. “I’ll go in here myself, my dear.”

“Fred!” said Scrooge. “Why bless my soul!” cried Fred, “who’s that?”

“It’s I. Your uncle Scrooge. I have come to dinner. Will you let me in, Fred?”

Let him in? It is a mercy he didn’t shake his arm off. He was at home in five minutes. Nothing could be heartier. Wonderful party, wonderful games, won-der-ful happiness!

But he was early at the office next morning. If he could only be there first, and catch Bob Cratchit coming late! That was the thing he had set his heart upon.

And he did it; yes, he did! The clock struck nine. No Bob. A quarter past. No Bob. He was full eighteen minutes and a half behind his time. Scrooge sat with his door wide open, that he might see him come into the Tank.

His hat was off, before he opened the door. He was on his stool in a jiffy; driving away with his pen, as if he were trying to overtake nine o’clock.

“Hello!” growled Scrooge, in his accustomed voice, as near as he could feign it. “What do you mean by coming here at this time of day?”

“I am very sorry, sir,” said Bob. “I am behind my time.”

“You are?” repeated Scrooge. “Yes. I think you are. Step this way, sir, if you please.”

“It’s only once a year, sir,” pleaded Bob, appearing from the Tank. “It shall not be repeated. I was making rather merry yesterday, sir. Ive got a bit of a hangover to be honest, but I’m good for work I promise.”

“Now, I’ll tell you what, my friend,” said Scrooge, “I am not going to stand this sort of thing any longer. And therefore,” he continued, “and therefore I am about to raise your salary!”

Bob trembled. He had a momentary idea of knocking Scrooge down, holding him, and calling to the people in the hospital for help and a strait-jacket.

“A merry Christmas, Bob!” said Scrooge, with an earnestness that could not be mistaken, as he clapped him on the back. “A merrier Christmas, Bob, my good fellow, than I have given you, for many a year! I’ll raise your salary, and endeavour to assist your struggling family, and we will discuss your affairs this very afternoon, Bob! Make up the fires, and buy another coal-scuttle before you dot another i, Bob Cratchit!”

Scrooge was better than his word. He did it all, and infinitely more; and to Tiny Tim, who did NOT die, he was a second father. He became as good a friend, as good a master, and as good a man, as the good old city knew, or any other good old city, town, or borough, in the good old world. Some people laughed to see the alteration in him, but he let them laugh. His own heart laughed: and that was quite enough for him.

He had no further meetings with Spirits ever afterwards; and it was always said of him, that he knew how to keep Christmas well, if any man alive possessed the knowledge. May that be truly said of us, and all of us! And so, as Tiny Tim observed, God bless Us, Every One!

christmas

245. Merry Christmas! (+ Other News) + Video!

This is just a chance to wish you all a Merry Christmas and to give you a bit of news. There is a video for this episode, featuring 15 minutes of extra footage which I filmed before recording the audio episode. You can watch it below. [Download audio]

Small Donate ButtonVideo – I started recording this 15 minutes before starting the podcast, so you’ll see me preparing myself to start recording, and I show you what it’s like to record a podcast in the slightly cramped (and badly lit) conditions of the ‘spacepod’ or ‘sky pod’! Unfortunately, the batteries in my camera ran out after about 30 minutes! Never mind – the audio podcast is my main focus anyway. :)

Contents of this episode
1. MEEEERY CHRISTMAS (if you celebrate it)
Click these links for previous episodes about Christmas:
160. The A to Z of Christmas
78. Christmas – It’s all about Family

2. Macmillan Competition

3. Nicknames – LEPPERS, LEPSTERS, LEPPISH, PLEPs, LEP Ninjas, LEP FC, The Cult of LEP, LEP United, LEPPARDS, LEPPANS, LEPIANS, LEPANESE, LEPLANDERS, LEPaholics… what do you think? Which nickname do you prefer? Do you need just one nickname or can we use lots of different aliases? I might do a proper survey on this to let you choose your nickname by committee.

4. Emails – I don’t get many opportunities to properly reply to your emails, and I get loads of them. I’ve tried lots of things – putting them in other folders, forwarding to other inboxes etc. The problem is, I just can’t get around to it. The reason is because I can’t really reply to you all individually. I have to just talk to you as one large group. Sorry if you have sent me an email and I haven’t replied. Really – I am very sorry and it hurts a little bit because you’ve gone out of your way. I love to receive emails but I can’t always reply. I haven’t published my email address on the website and I don’t mention it in the podcast (I used to) because I’d rather the correspondence came via teacherluke.co.uk and was public. That way I’m more likely to reply. Correspondence between me and you privately is very rare. So, if you have comments, do leave them on the website. I genuinely love reading your comments and I’m frequently impressed by what a lovely community of people I have listening to this podcast. It’s quite amazing really, so keep doing that – I’m sure I have a large silent majority out there. Most people don’t correspond with me directly. That’s fine. I never send emails to my favourite podcasters (except a text I sent to the Adam & Joe show once, which they read out!) So I understand that most of you have never commented or anything. I would like to hear from you so do get in touch. You could be a long term listener but first time commenter, or whatever. Anyway, I can’t always reply to specific requests which I get sent by email, and I do get a lot. For example, I often get emails with specific requests like giving you help for the IELTS test, asking for advice on visiting France or The UK or whatever. I would honestly love to reply fully to those mails but I can’t justify sitting down to write a full email when that time must be spent on other things.

What I would like to do is publicly read out some emails. I think this is a great way to give you a voice. If you would like to send me emails that I can reply to live on the podcast, please send your emails to podcastreply@gmail.com, that’s podcastreply@gmail.com. I will assume that if you send any email there that you’re happy for me to read it out on the podcast and reply to it orally. I can’t guarantee that all your emails there will be broadcast, but let’s try it. Send emails you’d like me to read out and respond to on LEP to podcastreply@gmail.com.

I realise there’s a forum section for questions you’ve asked me, and in fact several times I’ve attempted to record episodes in response to those forum questions and for one reason or another I had to abandon recording due to technical errors, and time issues. I’m trying to find a system for giving you a voice on the podcast at the moment. Let’s try a few ways until we get the right one. Perhaps the email inbox idea will give me just a little more discretion regarding which emails I reply to.

I am a little wary of giving you the impression that you can make requests for the podcast. One of the ways I can make this podcast work with my time schedule is to have total control over what I put out. It allows me to be flexible, determine my own schedule, motivate me by allowing me to have creative freedom and also it probably gives the podcast a distinctive and original quality. I do get requests that I’m sure would please a lot of people, but they would require a heck of a lot of preparation. Sometimes I do put a lot of time into episodes, but those are the ones I just seem to be particularly driven to produce, out of some urgent sense of creativity. Essentially, the urge to do episodes has to come from me, or they won’t really get done. So, at the end of the day I decide all of the output of the podcast, but it would be nice to feature your input too. Perhaps podcastreply@gmail.com is a good way of doing that. Send your correspondence there and I will aim to stick it into episodes of the podcast, and comment on your questions that way.

5. Lost podcasts. I’ve recorded a few episodes over the years that were not published or got lost due to a hard drive accident. You will probably never hear them and will never know what they were about…

Thank you for listening and Merry Christmas everyone!

Luke

160. The A to Z of Christmas

HO HO HO MERRY CHRISTMAS EVERYONE!!!
In this extra-special Christmas episode of the podcast I am joined by my good friend Raphael. Together we go through an A to Z list of words associated with Christmas in England.

Right-click here to download this episode.

255631_10150209021106947_6709581_nRaphael is an English teacher, a scouser (from Liverpool) and a graduate of Oxford University. He has appeared on Luke’s English Podcast before (in the Notting Hill Carnival video – click here to see it).

Below you can see the list of Christmas words that we refer to during this episode. As you can see it is extra Christmassy, and extra long! I hope listening to this puts you in the Christmas spirit. Enjoy!

The A to Z of Christmas
A – advent calenders, angels
B – bells, Bethlehem, Boxing Day, brandy butter, bread sauce
C – cards, carols, chimney, chocolate, Christians, Christ, church, cranberry sauce, crackers, charades, candles, Chrimbo, Christmas cake, Christmas pudding
D – dinner, decorations, Doctor Who
E – Ebeneezer Scrooge, elves
F – Father Christmas, frankincense, friends, football, fireplace
G – gifts, gold, gravy
H – holy, holidays, holly, hymns, hangovers
I – icicles, ivy
J – jingle bells, Jesus, Joseph
K – Kings (the three wise men)
L – list
M – manger, Merry Christmas, mistletoe, myrrh, mulled wine, mine pies
N – nativity, new year, Noel
O – office party
P – presents, put off doing your Christmas shopping until the last minute (hello Raph!)
Q – the Queen’s speech (not the Queen’s peach)
R – receipt, reindeers, robins
S – sales, Santa Claus, shopping, sleigh, sledge, star, snowman, stockings, stress, stuffing, songs, shepherds, secret santa
T – toys, tradition, turkey, tinsel, tree
U – unwrap
V – virgin Mary
W – wise men, wrapping, white Christmas
X – Xmas
Y – Yuletide
Z – zest, zesty

Merry Christmas, seasons greetings, all the best for the Christmas season and have a happy new year too. Cheers! Bye!

Luke

159. A Cup of Tea with Paul Taylor (Part 2)

Hello! In this Christmas episode I am joined by Paul Taylor who is that rare thing; an English guy who can speak other languages.

Paul is also a stand-up comedian who specialises in observing funny things about different cultures. He is also really good at doing different accents.


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In the episode we talk about Christmas traditions, his experiences of living in other countries and plenty of other things, including some examples of different accents in English. Enjoy the show!

Here is a video of Paul performing stand-up comedy around the world:
[youtube www.youtube.com/watch?v=7q2Xn6jEsdQ&w=500&h=281%5D
And here’s one from a performance in Spanish, with English subtitles:
[youtube www.youtube.com/watch?v=O1H5bpbSm30&w=500&h=281%5D

Here is a link to the Wkikipedia page for Fawlty Towers, which is the sit-com set in Torquay on the south coast of England. And, here’s a clip from the show. It’s old, but it’s a classic ;)
[youtube www.youtube.com/watch?v=H-oH-TELcLE&w=500&h=375%5D

Merry Christmas everyone!

Luke

78. Christmas – It’s all about Family

This episode is all about Christmas. Learn plenty of general English vocabulary and culture.
You will find some vocabulary and definitions below.

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In this episode I talk to my brother (James) about Christmas, and plenty of other things too!

*Caution – this episode contains some rude language and swearing :)*

This is a natural conversation between my brother and me. We talk mainly about Christmas and what it means to us as Londoners in England, UK. We also talk about other things as we naturally get sidetracked during the conversation.
The intention of the conversation is to explain what Christmas really means to us. Some of the things we say are intended to be humourous, which means sometimes we use irony, but most of the time we are being serious.
It might be difficult for you to follow everything we say, but we explain many things while talking. I have made a list of vocabulary and expressions that we use in the conversation. You will find this list of vocabulary and definitions below. Many of the definitions come from this website: www.thefreedictionary.com/, and some of the definitions are written by me.

I recommend that you check the vocabulary and expressions in your own dictionary too, and look for examples of the expressions online by googling them. Listen to this podcast several times to really catch all the expressions and to listen to them being used in the natural context of our conversation. Then try to use the expressions yourself, in your own conversations or just while practising English alone.

TRANSCRIPT
Vocabulary is defined below the transcript.

[0:00]
L – Luke
J – James

L: Hello and welcome to this Christmas episode of Luke’s English Podcast. Now, today I’m joined once again by my brother James. Hello James.
J: Hello.
L: And today we’re going to tell you all about what a typical Christmas is for most people in the UK. The UK?
J: Well, yes. I suppose we are specifically Southern England. You know, there are slightly different traditions around the UK such as Scotland may do things slightly differently up north of England things. So, I suppose, we can only really claim to represent Southern England.
L: Or like London. To be honest really, I think, we can only talk for ourselves. So mainly what we’re going to do in this episode is just tell you about what Christmas really means to us.
J: But I suppose it is fairly typical of English and British people.
L: That’s true, that’s absolutely right. So, we’re going to tell you about a typical Christmas for us, here in London, in England, in Britain, in the UK, in Europe, in the world etc. Right? And also we’re going to teach you, along the way… we are going to teach you bits of vocabulary and expressions that relate to Christmas and New Year and all the things and celebrations and various aspects of Christmas. Okay? So, cultural stuff and a bit of vocab in the process.
J: Okay.
L: Yeah. So, how are you doing?
J: I’m okay. I’ve got a bit of a cold, but I’m fine.
(sound of phone ringing)
L: Oh, the flimmin [this is not a word] phone , I bet that’s a cold caller.
(sound of phone ringing)
J: Luke’s just gone to answer the phone. This is sometimes a common thing.
L: (answering the phone ) Hello, Luke’s English Podcast.
(after a while)
L: No.
(sound of hanging up the phone)
J: Yes, very common thing. People get hold of your phone number through the telephone directory and they phone you up trying to sell you stuff or sometimes is just a robotic voice trying to sell you something. Very annoying and very little you can do about it.
L: That was a robot voice then it said: “Hello, this is an important recorded message for Luke Thompson.” And so immediately I knew it was a cold caller. Right?
J: It’s borderline illegal although…
L: It’s very annoying.
J: It’s very annoying. It’s well into the annoying category. Yeah.
L: We call them “cold calling”, because it’s a way for companies to just call someone without any warning…
J: Without any previous interactions, so as sort of a warm contact would be if they already answered a question essay and they wish to receive more information, but in this instance he hadn’t been asked. So that’s why it’s a “cold call”.
L: Because they’re just calling you without any previous contact at all. Cold call, which is ironic, because when the phone rang, you were just telling everyone that you had a cold.
J: Different meaning of cold. Cold is just, well I guess it’s the same around the world, a mild flu.
L: Yeah. It’s like a virus that goes round. And everyone kind of catches it. Because people always say: “Oh yeah, there is a cold going round”, you know. “It goes round” that means that, you know, it passes from person to person.
J: Especially in a place like London, where we have very tight concentration of people on public transport and cold and minor diseases, that sounds disgusting, but sorry it’s true…
L: Minor diseases.
J: Minor diseases can spread quite easily through the handrails and the shared air that you got on the ground.
L: Yeah, it’s right.
J: It’s common thing in London to get cold quite a lot.
L: Basically the London underground is just…
J: …a breeding ground for disease and infection.
L: A breeding ground for disease and infection. So that’s true.
J: There you go. Some people say this podcast is too positive. So, there you go. We’re given you a negative there.
L: My brother believes that sometimes in this podcast I just… I’m just too positive about things. I don’t agree, I think, you haven’t really listened to many of the episodes.
J: No, I’ve hardly listened to any of them, to be honest.
L: You haven’t really listened to the episode that you’re in.
J: No, I haven’t, I was too embarrassing.
L: And I did say “you’re in”, I didn’t say “urine” there.
J: Good.
L: We don’t ever mention urine on the show…
J: …in this house.
L: …until now.
J: Let’s get to the point.
L: Can I just explain what happened there? Sometimes in English words can sound like other words. Right? Like if you say the word “you’re” meaning “you are” and “in”, “you are in” it can sound a bit like the word “urine”. Right? “You’re in”, “urine”.
J: It’s not a very good joke, but some examples of this work better than others.
L: I don’t think that’s really a joke, it’s more just a coincidence.
J: It’s a double meaning.
L: Urine/You’re in.
J: So you could for instance… I don’t know if should say this, if I were to offer you a coffee

[5:00]
L: Go on.
J: I could say: “You’re for coffee?”.
L: Like “You’re for coffee?” as a question like “You’re for coffee?”, but also sounds like a rude word.
J: It sounds a little bit like a…
L: “You’re for coffee?”, “You fuck off-y?”.
J: Okay, okay. I think they get it. Sorry about that.
L: Anyway, so you haven’t really even listened to the episodes that you’re in, have you? Don’t tell me to fuck off at this point.
(laugh)
J: Enough swearing. I think we should delete that bit.
L: Let’s get down to business and talk about Christmas, shall we? But we’re both… before we do that, we both suffering from ever so slight colds.
J: That’s why we sound sort of slightly bunged up. There is a phrase for you.
L: Bunged up. I’ll write this down. I must write down…
J: So write down call cold, bunged up.
L: Urine.
J: No, not that one.
L: I should write it down. Call cold, bunged up.
J: Bunged up, that’s just means blocked up nose.
L: You’re for coffee.
J: We’re not going to do that one.
L: I don’t know, I might write it down anyway. Urine. You’re in.
J: Things not to say in a business meeting for instance. You don’t lean over to the managing director and say “You fuck off-y?”. That would be a social faux pas, which is French.
L: A faux pas. That is. Faux pas is a French word.
J: And some English phrases are just literally a French phrase which we quite like a sound of. It’s been picked up over the years and accepted as English phrases, for instance: cliche, faux pas.
L: Yeah, a cul-de-sac.
J: Yeah.
L: It’s true.
J: Cul-de-sac…
L: Wait, wait, wait. What is first of all… What is a faux pas? What is a cliche? And what is a cul-de-sac? What’s a faux pas? Well it’s a French word.
J: Fake. “Faux” means “fake”, doesn’t it?
L: Maybe. I don’t know what the original…
J: I don’t know what the literal thing means, we’re very embarrassing. If you know, write in the comment underneath.
L: I’m sure. I’ve got lots of listeners who speak French, who can tell us exactly what “faux pas” means in French, but in English…
J: It’s just means a minor mistake.
L: It’s a social mistake.
J: A social mistake, yeah.
L: So for example, if you go to a business meeting and you…
J: …are wearing trainers.
L: …and you’re wearing sport shoes, trainers, sneakers, pumps, that kind of thing, to a business meeting, where you should be dressed in formal way. That would be a faux pas, like a social mistake. Okay. Next one was a cliche, another French word.
J: It’s because that we don’t have a literal translation for that in English, so we use the French, which means a cliche. A kind of… it’s very hard to explain.
L: Welcome to my job.
J: It’s very hard to explain without using the French.
L: I think the cliche is something which has happened many, many, many times and to the point which it’s now become really sort of predictable and not even necessarily true.
J: Slightly embarrassingly obvious, maybe.
L: Obvious, predictable. It’s been repeated many times.
J: So for instance a cliche would be an English bloke swigging lager with an England top on watching the football.
L: So that’s a cultural cliche.
J: A cultural cliche.
L: Which is very similar to a stereotype.
J: It is, that’s the word I was looking for. It’s similar to a stereotype, but it doesn’t just have to fit a person. It could fit a style or…
L: Usually stereotypes describe a type of person, don’t they? Like the German stereotype, the American stereotype, French stereotype.
J: And all the best stereotypes have an element of truth in them as well, obviously.
L: Like the English stereotype. There’s two English stereotypes for me. One is that we are very posh, stuck up, kind of gentlemen…
J: Drinking tea, wearing bowler hats.
L: And being very posh and going “Oh, my dear… my good man…” that kind of thing, which you know the Americans love that kind of English stereotype. But the other stereotype is…
J: It’s a football hooligan. Somebody goes (sound of hooligans).
L: Right? I think actually most English people have both.
J: A bit of both.
L: Yeah. They can be very reserved and polite and “Oh sorry”, but on the other hand they can… if they have a few drinks…
J: They can be quite ignorant and stupid.
L: They become ignorant and stupid.
J: And I include myself in that, unfortunately.
L: I think, you’re more hooligan than gentleman. I am maybe more gentleman than hooligan, but it depends…
J: So you like to think.
L: I don’t know, I don’t know if it’s true. It depends. Sometimes you’re more gentlemanly than I am and sometimes…
J: I don’t watch football, I want to point that out, I don’t follow a team. I never drink lager.
L: How many time have you had a fight in your life? Physical, a physical fight.
J: A few, but they were really asking for it.

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