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LESSON THIRTY-SEVEN HERE!
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In today’s lesson, entitled O Christmas Tree! you will listen to a passage about how the Christmas tree tradition got started and about the real-vs.-artificial Christmas tree debate. Listen carefully to the passage and then answer the questions that follow. It’s always a good idea to take notes as you listen, but remember: don’t let your note-taking distract you from your listening.
O Christmas Tree!
Listen and Learn
Lesson Thirty-Seven PASSAGE ONLY track:
On a clear winter’s night in 1536, Martin Luther, the founder of the Protestant church, was walking through a pine forest near his home in Wittenberg, Germany. He looked up and saw thousands of stars gleaming like jewels among the branches of the evergreen trees. According to folklore, this wondrous sight inspired Luther to set up a candle-lit fir tree in his home that Christmas as a way to remind his children that the Savior Jesus Christ had descended from the starry heavens. The practice caught on, and decorated fir trees began appearing at Christmastime in many German homes. Before long, it was an annual custom.
In 1761, when Princess Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Sterlitz left Germany to marry King George III of England, she took many German customs with her. Among them was the Christmas tree, which she introduced to the court at Windsor Castle to “delight the children” on Christmas Eve. By the time Queen Charlotte died in 1818, the Christmas-tree tradition was firmly established throughout English society. And it had crossed the Atlantic to America.
Today, the Christmas tree has become the holiday’s most iconic symbol, and decorating it is the highlight of the season. The National Christmas Tree Association of America estimates that more than 25 million natural Christmas trees and some twelve million artificial trees are sold each year in the United States alone. Which begs the question: Which are better, real trees or artificial trees? Christmas “traditionalists” insist that Christmas isn’t Christmas without a real fir, spruce, or pine. Conservationists, on the other hand, have maintained that natural Christmas trees are an environmental disaster.
While both sides make a good case, surprisingly, even the most die-hard environmentalist now acknowledges that real trees are the more eco-friendly choice. Rather than being hewn from forests, most commercially sold Christmas trees are grown by farmers as sustainable crops, like pumpkins or wheat. Right now, more than 350 million Christmas trees are growing on farms in North America. Real trees are also biodegradable and recyclable. As long as they haven’t been sprayed with toxic pesticides and chemicals, they can be easily composted.
Many people, however, still argue for fake trees because they can be re-used and thus don’t generate waste. Some shops even sell them as the “greener option.” But that argument falls down when you remember that artificial trees are typically made of PVC, one of the most environmentally offensive forms of non-renewable plastic. After a few years of use, fake trees lose their shape and are discarded—taking up space in landfills. In 2009, a Montreal-based consulting firm calculated the “carbon footprint” that the manufacture, distribution, and disposal of one artificial tree leaves on the environment. It was found that a fake tree would have to be reused for at least 20 years to be greener than buying a fresh-cut tree once a year.
Perhaps a live, potted tree is the most environmentally friendly option, provided you have the garden space to plant it once the holidays are over. But no matter what choice you make, one things is beyond debate: any tree–real, fake, or potted–adorned with twinkling lights and colorful ornaments is guaranteed to light up your Christmas with a little magic.
LISTENING COMPREHENSION QUESTIONS
Listen to Listen and Learn: Lesson Thirty-Seven LISTENING COMPREHENSION QUESTIONS track:
Today’s listening comprehension questions will be MULTIPLE CHOICE or TRUE-FALSE and based on FACTUAL CONTENT and LOGICAL INFERENCE. Listen to each question carefully and mark your answer. Feel free to pause the recording if you need a moment or two to think about the question.
1. Choose the answer that best completes this sentence.
From the passage, you can infer that Martin Luther was______________________________.
a) a lumberjack who made his living chopping down trees in German forests
b) the first person in Germany to celebrate Christmas
c) an astronomy professor
d) a deeply religious man
2. Decide if this statement is true or false.
Martin Luther lit the first Christmas tree with a string of electric lights.
3. Decide if this statement is true or false.
Decorating Christmas trees was a tradition in Germany long before the practice became popular in England and America.
4. Choose the best answer.
What prompted Princess Charlotte to set up a Christmas tree at Windsor Castle on Christmas Eve?
a) She had always been very fond of pretty decorations.
b) She wanted to introduce the German custom to the court at Windsor Castle to delight the children.
c) Very proud of her German heritage, she insisted that the English celebrate Christmas in the same way that Germans did.
d) Her husband, King George III, was a big fan of German holiday traditions and customs.
5. Choose the best answer.
According to the National Christmas Tree Association of America, how many natural Christmas trees are sold in the United States every year?
a) About 25 million.
b) Around twelve million.
c) More than 350 million.
d) Nearly ten million.
6. Decide if this statement is true or false.
Christmas “traditionalists” insist that Christmas isn’t Christmas without a real fir, spruce, or pine.
7. Choose the answer that best completes this sentence.
Most commercially sold Christmas trees are_________________________.
a) sprayed with toxic insecticides and chemicals
b) grown by farmers as sustainable crops, like pumpkins or wheat
c) cut down in natural forests
d) discarded in landfills
8. Decide if this statement is true or false.
Most people argue that artificial trees are the “greener option” because they are biodegradable.
9. Choose the best answer to this question.
According to a Montreal-based consulting firm, for how many years would a family have to use an artificial tree for it to be a greener option than a real tree?
a) Artificial trees need to be used for twelve years before they can be considered truly “green.”
b) As long as the fake tree is recycled properly every year, it is always the “greener” option.
c) Because artificial trees are made of environmentally harmful PVC plastic, they will never be the “greener” option.
d) Fake trees need to be used for at least twenty years before they can be considered “greener” than a real tree.
10. Decide if this statement is true or false.
Live, potted trees are perhaps the best Christmas tree option, but only for those people who have a large enough garden in which to plant the tree after the holiday season.
LISTENING COMPREHENSION QUESTIONS and ANSWERS HERE!
You may also download the lesson in PDF format to keep for your reference.
KA WORDCAST: Listen and Learn! Lesson Thirty-Seven
KEY VOCABULARY WORDS
Be sure to listen to the Key Vocabulary bonus track. This will help you improve your understanding of the passage itself and give your vocabulary a big boost!
According to folklore, this wondrous sight inspired Luther to set up a candle-lit fir tree in his home that Christmas as a way to remind his children that the Savior Jesus Christ had DESCENDED from the starry heavens.
DESCEND means to come or go down from a higher to a lower level. Drop, fall, and sink are some good synonyms.
Everyone turned to watch as the beautiful princess gracefully DESCENDED the stairs and entered the ballroom.
According to the Federal Aviation Administration, the airplane DESCENDED rapidly before crashing into the side of the mountain.
DESCEND is also used to talk about something like a mood or darkness that arrives and begins to affect someone or something. And when people DESCEND ON or UPON a place, they make an unexpected visit to or a sudden attack on that particular place.
In the winter, darkness DESCENDS early, making for a very short day.
A feeling of tension DESCENDED UPON the family after Nan and Auntie Kirsten had a heated argument over Christmas dinner.
More than 10,000 anti-war protesters are expected to DESCEND ON the state capital this afternoon.
DESCEND also means to slope downward.
Be careful! The road DESCENDS sharply after the next curve.
You should also know that DESCEND is used to talk about a person’s family background or ancestry.
My physics teacher claims to be DESCENDED from Isaac Newton, but I’m sure he’s just joking.
DESCENT is the noun form of DESCEND for all the above uses.
We reached the summit of the mountain just before noon and, after a picnic lunch, began our DESCENT.
Wearing shoes with good traction will keep you from slipping down the steep DESCENT.
Overseas visitors’ DESCENT on the popular tourist area means that there are always long lines at every shop and restaurant.
Anyone who can prove he or she is of Native American DESCENT is eligible for the scholarship.
ASCEND is the opposite of DESCEND. The noun ASCENT refers to the act of climbing upwards.
We had ASCENDED to almost 30,000 feet when the pilot announced that he would be turning the plane around for an emergency landing.
Sir Edmund Hillary is historically known for being the first person to ASCEND to the summit of Mt. Everest.
Despite not having any management experience, Frank fully expects to ASCEND to a top-level position within just a few years.
The ASCENT grew steeper and the air grew thinner as we passed the tree line.
Right now, I’m reading a book about Adolf Hitler’s ASCENT to power in 1930s Germany.
Today, the Christmas tree has become the holiday’s most ICONIC symbol, and decorating it is the highlight of the season.
ICONIC is an adjective that means acting as a sign or symbol for something.
These ICONIC Star Wars action figures are expected to fetch $3,000 or more each at an auction this weekend.
Yokohama’s ICONIC giant Ferris wheel is lit up in different colors throughout the year.
How could the producers of the new Superman movie think that it’s okay to change Superman’s ICONIC superhero symbol?
The two-tone Volkswagen van has become one of the most ICONIC symbols of the 1960s.
ICONIC is based on the noun ICON, which (in addition to meaning a sign on, say, your computer screen) refers to a person or thing that people admire and see as a symbol for a particular idea or way of life. Symbol is the nearest synonym.
I think it’s quite ironic that my e-mail ICON looks like a regular postage stamp.
Manchester United ICON David Beckham may soon realize his dream of owning his own professional football club.
Though she dedicated much of her adult to humanitarian causes, British actress Audrey Hepburn is still best known for being an international fashion ICON.
It has been more than fifty years since James Bond, another British ICON, first appeared on the silver screen.
Christmas “traditionalists” INSIST that Christmas isn’t Christmas without a real fir, spruce, or pine.
INSIST is a verb that means to say firmly that something is true, even if other people don’t believe it or have other opinions. Maintain, assert, contend, argue, claim, declare, and stress are some good equivalents.
Both Jake and Thomas INSIST that it was Harry who threw the ball that broke the window.
Language purists INSIST that the word “fun” is a noun and should never be used as an adjective.
The Major League team’s spokesperson INSISTED that the allegations were untrue and that the team was not facing financial difficulty.
INSIST also means to demand something forcefully and to not accept refusal.
We said we would provide all the food for the party, but I know that some of our vegetarian friends will INSIST on bringing their own food so as not to cause us too much trouble.
I could just as easily have walked home from work, but Martin INSISTED on giving me a lift.
“You can agree on a lower price, but make sure you INSIST that the buyer pays in cash,” my wife told me.
As long as they haven’t been sprayed with TOXIC pesticides and chemicals, they can be easily composted.
Something that is TOXIC contains poison and is very harmful. Poisonous is the best substitute.
If you’re thinking about putting glow-sticks in the children’s party bags, make sure you get the non-TOXIC kind.
In my opinion, the companies that are responsible for the pollution should pay the cost of cleaning up TOXIC waste.
Some household cleaning agents are highly TOXIC and should be kept away from small children and pets.
Indian authorities are considering shutting down schools in Delhi, as TOXIC levels of smog pollute the air in the country’s most populated city.
Two people were recently arrested in Geneva for possession of explosives and TOXIC chemicals.
More colloquially and figuratively, TOXIC describes a person who has an unpleasant personality or something that is dangerous or just plain horrible. But be careful when using this adjective: it can come across as mean and hurtful.
The popular Hollywood actress recently spoke out against social-networking sites, describing Facebook and Twitter as “TOXIC” for children.
As her friend, you should encourage Kaitlin to get out of her TOXIC relationship with her boyfriend as soon as possible.
The conservative candidate’s TOXIC remarks have offended blacks, women, immigrants, and non-Christians, and made him both feared and a laughing stock.
But that argument falls down when you remember that artificial trees are typically made of PVC, one of the most environmentally OFFENSIVE forms of non-renewable plastic.
In the sentence above, OFFENSIVE is an adjective that describes something that is damaging and harmful.
Studies have shown that gasoline-run cars and diesel-run cars are equally OFFENSIVE to the environment.
With that in mind, the least environmentally OFFENSIVE means of travel is by bicycle or on foot.
In general use, OFFENSIVE means extremely unpleasant, as in:
While perfumes may smell pleasant to most of us, some people, especially those with allergies, may find some scents OFFENSIVE.
Passengers pleaded with the driver to stop the bus when an OFFENSIVE odor wafted from the back of the bus.
OFFENSIVE is also used to describe something that causes people to feel upset, insulted, or annoyed. Insulting, rude, disrespectful, hurtful, and abusive are some good equivalents.
Despite being a “children’s” movie, the film was given a PG rating for mild violence and use of OFFENSIVE language.
I found the prime minister’s speech on refugees incredibly OFFENSIVE, not to mention ignorant.
“Your remarks in class today were not only unnecessary, but they were also OFFENSIVE,” Mr. Roster scolded Ricky.
After a few years of use, fake trees lose their shape and are DISCARDED—taking up space in landfills.
DISCARD is a verb that means to get rid of something that you no longer need or use. Throw away and dispose of are some near equivalents.
Every year, Americans DISCARD about 133 billion pounds of perfectly edible produce, dairy, and meat products.
It’s a good thing I didn’t DISCARD my old “boot-cut” jeans, as I see they are making a comeback this season.
Instead of just DISCARDING moving boxes after you’ve emptied them, store them away for future use or make them available to someone else who is moving.
During our brainstorming sessions, we make a point of never DISCARDING any ideas that might come in handy later on.
The past participle DISCARDED is often used as an adjective.
Every year on Christmas morning, our living room is littered with DISCARDED wrapping paper just moments after the children open their presents.
Nick’s house is furnished almost completely with DISCARDED furniture and appliances that he found in local trash-collection sites.