Holiday Idioms

The English language is peppered with colorful idioms and expressions that encapsulate the spirit of the holiday season. As we explore the various holiday idioms, we’ll discover the stories and meanings behind these delightful expressions. By understanding them, we can enhance our appreciation for the language, contributing to more vibrant and meaningful holiday interactions.

What Are Holiday Idioms?

Holiday idioms are colorful expressions used to convey specific feelings, experiences, or situations associated with holidays and travel. Idioms, by their nature, don’t have a literal meaning; instead, they have an established figurative meaning that’s understood in context by those familiar with the language.

When we talk about the holiday season, we often find ourselves using language that encapsulates the joy, stress, or peculiar habits that come with it. Here’s how we might use holiday idioms:

  • The more the merrier – This phrase means that a celebration, event, or situation is more enjoyable if more people are present or involved.
  • Out with the old, in with the new – An expression that encourages embracing new beginnings and ideas while letting go of old ones, often heard around New Year’s.

Holiday Idioms

List of Holiday Idioms

Idioms Meaning and Example Sentence
The more the merrier The idea that social gatherings are more enjoyable with more people.

Example: Feel free to bring your friends to the party, the more the merrier!

Eat, drink, and be merry To indulge in the pleasures of the moment.

Example: It’s the holidays, so let’s eat, drink, and be merry!

Ghost of Christmas past A reference to something or someone from one’s past, especially during the holiday season.

Example: Every Christmas, my uncle becomes the ghost of Christmas past, reminiscing about his childhood holidays.

Christmas came early Receiving good news or a gift sooner than expected.

Example: I got the promotion today—looks like Christmas came early for me!

To light up like a Christmas tree To become very excited or happy.

Example: Her face lit up like a Christmas tree when she saw the puppy.

Cold turkey To abruptly stop a habit.

Example: He decided to quit smoking cold turkey as his New Year’s resolution.

Ring out the old, ring in the new To celebrate the end of the old year and the beginning of the new year.

Example: At midnight, we’ll ring out the old, ring in the new with fireworks.

Fall off the wagon To fail to maintain a higher standard of behavior, typically used in the context of abstaining from drinking alcohol.

Example: He was doing well until the holidays, then he fell off the wagon.

The gift that keeps on giving Something that continues to be beneficial or bring joy.

Example: Her donation to the children’s charity was truly the gift that keeps on giving.

Out with the old, in with the new To embrace new things and ideas, and discard old ones.

Example: When it comes to decorations, I say out with the old, in with the new!

On the naughty list To be in trouble or disfavor, especially with authority figures.

Example: He’s not getting dessert tonight because he’s on the naughty list.

To wrap things up To complete or finish something, often used at the end of the year.

Example: We need to wrap things up at work before the holiday break.

A cracker of a party A very lively and enjoyable party.

Example: Last night’s New Year’s Eve celebration was a cracker of a party.

Good things come in small packages The idea that something does not need to be big to be valuable.

Example: Don’t be disappointed by the size of your gift; good things come in small packages.

Like turkeys voting for Christmas To act against one’s own best interests.

Example: Selling the house to pay for a holiday is like turkeys voting for Christmas.

To be stuffed like a turkey To eat to the point of being extremely full.

Example: After the holiday feast, I was stuffed like a turkey.

To save something for a rainy day To reserve something for a future time of need.

Example: I put some of my holiday bonus aside to save for a rainy day.

To have a skeleton at the feast To have something unpleasant that spoils enjoyment.

Example: Uncle Joe’s constant complaining was the skeleton at the feast this Thanksgiving.

To be full of the joys of spring To be very happy and enthusiastic.

Example: Even in the winter, she’s full of the joys of spring when planning for the holidays.

To turn over a new leaf To start anew, often with better habits or a better attitude.

Example: I’m going to turn over a new leaf in the New Year and exercise more.

To make a clean sweep To completely change for the better.

Example: After the holidays, I’m going to make a clean sweep and declutter the house.

To keep the home fires burning To maintain a household or a feeling of warmth and welcome.

Example: While I was away for the holidays, she kept the home fires burning.

To let one’s hair down To relax and enjoy oneself.

Example: It’s the holiday season, so it’s time to let your hair down and have some fun.

To paint the town red To go out and enjoy oneself flamboyantly.

Example: For New Year’s Eve, we’re going to paint the town red!

To start with a bang To begin something with a lot of energy and enthusiasm.

Example: This year, we’re starting the holiday season with a bang with a huge party.

To tie one on To drink alcohol excessively, often during celebrations.

Example: He really tied one on at the office Christmas party.

To be as happy as a clam at high tide To be very happy and content.

Example: I’m as happy as a clam at high tide when I’m surrounded by family during the holidays.

To take the plunge To make a big decision or undertake a big action, often used for New Year commitments.

Example: I’m finally going to take the plunge and start my own business this year.

To break the ice To do something to create a more relaxed and comfortable atmosphere.

Example: At the start of the holiday party, we played games to break the ice.

To catch someone’s eye To attract someone’s attention, often with a gift or decoration.

Example: The beautiful holiday window display really caught my eye.

To cook up a storm To cook a lot of food, usually for a party or celebration.

Example: Every Christmas, my mom cooks up a storm for the whole family.

To give the gift of gab To grant someone the ability to speak well and persuasively, often in a social setting.

Example: He gave the gift of gab during the holiday toast, impressing all the guests.

To go the whole hog To do something completely or extravagantly.

Example: This New Year’s Eve, we’re going to go the whole hog with a gourmet dinner and fireworks.

To let bygones be bygones To forget about past conflicts or problems.

Example: The holidays are a time to let bygones be bygones and enjoy family.

To roll out the red carpet To give someone special treatment.

Example: When my relatives visit for the holidays, we roll out the red carpet for them.

To spice things up To make something more exciting or lively.

Example: We’re going to spice things up this Christmas with some new games.

To take it down a notch To relax or reduce the level of excitement or activity.

Example: After the hectic holiday season, it’s time to take it down a notch.

To warm the cockles of one’s heart To cause a feeling of affectionate happiness.

Example: Seeing the children open their presents really warms the cockles of my heart.

To be on cloud nine To be extremely happy or euphoric.

Example: She was on cloud nine after getting engaged over the holiday season.

To be the life and soul of the party To be the most lively and entertaining person at a social gathering.

Example: At the New Year’s Eve party, he was the life and soul of the party.

Holiday Idioms Categorized by Topics

Winter Holidays

Like turkeys voting for Christmas: This idiom refers to a situation where individuals or groups are unwittingly working against their own best interests, essentially choosing to participate in an action that is likely to result in harm to themselves.

  • They’re like turkeys voting for Christmas by backing that policy.

Don’t get your tinsel in a tangle: Advises someone to stay calm and not to let themselves become overly stressed or worried, especially over minor issues or during busy times like the Christmas season.

  • Don’t get your tinsel in a tangle, everything will come together beautifully in the end.

To be as busy as an elf: Being extremely busy or industrious

  • In the weeks leading up to the product launch, the design team was as busy as an elf, working late hours to ensure everything was ready on time.

To be snowed under: To be overwhelmed with work or responsibilities to the point where one has difficulty coping.

  • With the end-of-year reports due next week and numerous meetings scheduled, I’m completely snowed under at work right now.

Explore further: Christmas Idioms


Talk turkey: To discuss something seriously, often in the context of negotiation.

  • After going back and forth on the terms, we finally sat down to talk turkey.

Stuff the turkey: Literally to fill the cavity of a turkey with stuffing, but can also mean to eat a lot.

  • Grandma spent the morning stuffing the turkey, and it smelled delicious.

Over the river and through the woods: Heading to one’s grandparents’ or relatives’ house, usually for a holiday meal.

  • Every Thanksgiving, we go over the river and through the woods to my grandparents’ house.

Count one’s blessings: To be grateful for what one has, which is a common theme during Thanksgiving.

  • This holiday season, let’s all take a moment to count our blessings.

Summer Holidays

Dog days of summer: The hottest days of the summer season.

  • We spent the dog days of summer lounging by the pool and sipping cool drinks.

Make hay while the sun shines: To take advantage of a good situation or good conditions; often used when talking about work before a holiday.

  • We need to finish the project this week, so let’s make hay while the sun shines.

Chasing The Sun: The pursuit of good weather or sunshine, often by traveling to warmer or sunnier places.

  • After years of working in a job she didn’t love, she decided it was time to start chasing the sun and began a new career that aligned with her passions.

Hit the beach: To go to the beach for relaxation or fun.

  • As soon as we got to the vacation spot, we decided to hit the beach.

Search for more: Summer Idioms

General Festivities

Paint the town red: To go out and have a very enjoyable time, often at a party or public celebration.

  • After the final exams, we’re going to paint the town red!

Pop the cork: To open a bottle of champagne or sparkling wine to celebrate.

  • When we heard the good news, we were ready to pop the cork and toast to our success.

The life of the party: A person who brings energy and fun to a social gathering.

  • She was definitely the life of the party, dancing and laughing all night long.

Party pooper: Someone who doesn’t want to join in the fun or is a downer at a social event.

  • Don’t be a party pooper; come and join the dance floor!

Find more insights: Life Idioms