Learn English – What do we see in this Christmas scene?

Nostalgia is looking back to the past with fond memories. But many past traditions are still with us.  Although Covid has changed how we celebrate Christmas in 2020, it won’t last forever.

In this video, I describe a Christmas painting and imagine who the characters are.


Hey there! What do you think of, what do you picture in your mind when you hear the word Christmas? If you know something about Christmas, what are the thoughts? What are the images or memories that come to your mind?  Today, we’re going to look at a painting that takes place around Christmas time. And describe what we see and imagine the story behind the painting.

(Intro: English without Fear, where you can learn to speak English naturally, through listening to stories.)

First off, what season is it, what time of year? It’s winter. The season is winter. How can we tell? There is snow on the ground. That is obvious. The snow on the ground means it’s winter.

What is happening? We see a train and we see a woman. It looks like the woman has just gotten off the train. She has climbed down. The train has arrived. Where, where has the train arrived?  in a big city? No, the train has not come to a big city, but to a small village.

How, how do I know? How do you know that it’s a small village and not a big city? Look at the train station, that building that’s red. It’s very tiny. It’s very small. And how many people got off the train? How many passengers descended, climbed down from the train? A lot of people? No, a lot of people did not get off. Just one, just one traveler, one passenger. 

Who is this traveler, this person who has arrived to (should be ‘in’) the village? It’s a woman. It’s not a man. It’s a woman. And how is this woman dressed? She’s dressed all in blue. She has a blue hat. She has a blue jacket and a long blue skirt. So, looking at how she is dressed, what year, what century is this…does this painting represent? Looking at her dress, her clothing, I think it is probably the 19th century, the 18 hundreds. Does that make sense? She doesn’t look like a modern woman. People today don’t dress like the woman in blue.

Who else is in the picture? There is another person, in a sleigh. A sleigh is a type of carriage with no wheels. It’s snowing. There’s snow on the ground, and the sleigh has skis, so it can move or glide across the snow. Is there an engine? Nope. No engine, no mechanical engine, but there is a horse. 

How many horses? There is one horse, one brown horse.  Who is in the sleigh, who is driving the sleigh? I think it’s a boy. Why do I think it’s a boy?  Look at how he’s dressed,  the person, the driver. He has a cap, which looks to me like the kind of cap or hat that a boy would wear. Not a grown man and not a girl and not a grown woman. I think that a boy has come to pick up the lady, to pick up the lady and blue, the passenger that got off the train. 

What is the lady in blue carrying in her hand? It’s a bag. Not necessarily a suitcase. It doesn’t look like a suitcase, but it’s a bag, a travel bag. What is in the bag? Her clothes, probably. Does it look like she’s coming for a long, long time, a month? No. I think she’s coming just for a few days. Maybe a week. And she has put, she has packed in her bag, everything she needs for a few days.

Do you think there’s a gift, a present, a Christmas present in the bag for the boy? I imagine so.  I think so. A small gift for the boy and maybe a small gift for the family. I don’t think she has traveled on the train to just visit the boy.

The boy has a family. And the family said to the boy, “Take the sleigh with the horse and go meet this lady.”

Who do you think this lady is? From the looks of her, I don’t think she’s a grandma. She doesn’t look that old. But maybe she is an aunt, the sister of the boy’s mom or the sister of the boy’s dad. Maybe she is the boy’s aunt. So maybe she has brought the boy, her nephew, a present. 

What kind of present would he like? I’m thinking, perhaps,  maybe a knife to carve, to make things, whether toys for other people or something useful for the house. Maybe he likes to carve wood and she brought him a knife, a carving knife. Maybe he likes music. And she brought a small instrument. What’s a small instrument? How about a harmonica? A harmonica is very small. You blow and you can make a tune, you can play a tune with your breath and with your fingers. Just a guess, you’ll have to tell me what you think. 

What else do we know about this village? If you look at the train station, which is very small, there’s a sign in blue that says ‘Hometown’. This is home and home is the feeling that we want during the holidays. We want to be with family during the holidays, during Christmas….. national holidays. We think of holidays and we think of family. So, this village is anywhere that is home to somebody. 

What else do we notice about the train station? There are lights on. So, I think that it’s almost night time. How do I know it’s almost night time? If you look carefully, you can see little stars coming out, beginning to shine. The sun has gone down. It’s beginning to get dark. There are lights on in the train station and there’s a fire going. You can look at the chimney and see the smoke.

Another clue that it’s evening is there’s a lamp post right next to the train station. And there’s a light on the train. But it’s not completely dark, yet. And we can see the boy in the sleigh. We can see the brown horse and we can see the visitor, the family member who has come from somewhere else. 

What else can we see? If you look closely, the only other building in the distance is a church. I think the church is there to remind us that this is Christmas and Christmas is a Christian holiday, in its origin. And the church is there to remind us of that, to connect this picture with a certain holiday. There is also another clue. Another bit of evidence, that tells us it’s Christmas. If you look at the door, on the door is what we call a wreath. It’s a circle and it’s green.

Anything else in the picture? No, but most importantly, I think is how it makes me feel. Seeing this picture makes me feel both happy and sad. I’m happy because Christmas for me, and for many people means family and home and warmth. But this year because of Covid, I’m sad because a lot of families will not be coming home, will not be together with family members and will celebrate Christmas alone. And that makes me sad.

What about you? Are you going to be able to celebrate Christmas with family or will you be alone? Tell me about it. Leave me a comment below this video. And if you would like the written words, the transcript for today’s episode, go to my website, www.englishwithoutfear.com

And I wish you a very joy-filled Christmas, even if you are alone, because Christmas, the purpose of Christmas is to remind us that Jesus came into the world. And that is good news for all people in every culture by now.

 (Outro: Thanks for watching. For questions or comments, here’s my email.)


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