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Christmas Eve

On Christmas Eve everything is rush and bustle. Offices and public buildings close at one o'clock, but the shops stay open late. Most big cities, especially London, are decorated with coloured lights across the streets and enormous Christmas trees. The main line stations, trains and buses are crowded with people travelling from all parts of the country to be at home for Christmas.

In the homes there is a great air of expectation. The children are decorating the tree with tinsel, various baubles and often coloured lights as well. The house is decorated with holly* and a bunch of mistletoe under which the boys kiss the girls. Christmas cards - with the words A Merry Christmas to You, or Wishing You a Merry Christmas and a Prosperous New Year, or With the Compliments of the Season, etc. - are arranged on mantlepieces, shelves, tables, and sometimes attached to ribbon and hung round the walls.

* (An evergreen shrub with hard, shiny, dark-green, sharp-pointed leaves and bright red berries, Branches of this are used for Christmas decorations.)

Meanwhile the housewife is probably busy in the kitchen getting things ready for the next day's dinner. The Christmas bird, nowadays usually a turkey, is being prepared and stuffed, the pudding is inspected and the cake is got out of its tin and iced.

In small towns and villages one may still see carol-singers who come and stand in front of the house and sing or play Christmas carols. They expect a Christmas box from a few pennies or coppers upwards in return for their musical efforts. The money collected is then donated to some deserving cause, for example to help destitute old people.

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