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I saw the sentence like 'I will go on a vacation at Christmas'.

Could I substitute this sentence with 'I will go on a vacation on Christmas'

If so, What is the difference between 'at Christmas' and 'on Christmas'?

I'd like to know the difference.

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For me (British), I would never say "on Christmas", because 'on' is used with a day, not a period. I would say "on Christmas Day", or "on New Year's Day", or "On Easter Sunday" but "at Christmas" or "at Easter".

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Christmas can be understood to be a particular day (December 25) or a seasonal celebration similar to Yule. Hence, the different prepositions, on for the day, at for the seasonal celebration.

In my experience, the phrase is usually "on Christmas day".

She is visiting her family on Christmas day, and then she's leaving with her friends to go on a ski trip.

He plans to propose to her, but he wasn't sure it would be a good idea to do so at Christmas or to wait until spring.

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  • Also "for Christmas" can be used to be less specific about the visit date, and instead refer generally to the Christmas season. – Mario Carneiro Nov 21 '16 at 20:08
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    While “on Christmas day” is hardly unusual, I would say that just “on Christmas” is the more frequently-heard expression, by a considerable margin. Might be a cultural thing, though (my experience is the American Northeast for the most part). – KRyan Nov 21 '16 at 20:08
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    @KRyan apparently, some Americans (and maybe some British people also) omit the "Day" bit. "We went to a movie on Christmas because everything else was closed." – Mari-Lou A Nov 22 '16 at 13:07
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    @Mari-Lou Yeah, that sounds quite natural to me. Adding “Day” would make it sound a bit over-formal to my ear. – KRyan Nov 22 '16 at 13:26
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    @KRyan but nevertheless the "on Christmas" refers to the actual date, not the festive season. Right? – Mari-Lou A Nov 22 '16 at 13:28
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on

In English the preposition on is normally used for days of the week, dates, and holidays which fall on specific dates, e.g., Independence Day (Fourth of July)

  • I'm going away on Friday
  • We're flying to Philadelphia on December 23rd
  • We'll be opening our gifts on Christmas Day.
  • They will be flying back on New Year's Day

In American English, on is used before the expression weekend

  • Things to do in Philadelphia on the weekend

at

In English, the preposition at is normally used for the time of day, festive periods; and in British English before the word weekend.

The Christmas Season (also called Happy Holidays) basically covers a period of three days: Christmas Eve (24th December), Christmas Day (25th December), and St Stephen's Day (26th December). Likewise, Easter is celebrated over three days in Anglophone countries: Good Friday, Easter Sunday, and Easter Monday. When speaking about the Christmas or Easter holidays/period, the preposition at is preferred.

  • At nine o'clock in the morning, we arrive in Philadelphia.
  • We're visiting friends and relatives at Christmas (the holiday period)
  • This year, Christmas falls at the weekend.

UPDATE

From the website English Club it appears that in some English dialects, the expression on Christmas, is commonly used. However, I would not use this particular structure in a formal setting, or if one had to sit an English language exam.

It is nevertheless a very interesting observation, and something I would have thought not possible until today.

enter image description here

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  • I'm not sure this is right; I’m American and your example of “on the weekend” doesn’t sound right. And in any event, to me “at Christmas” would not refer to the Christmas season, but rather to a Christmas celebration, probably on Christmas itself. – KRyan Nov 22 '16 at 13:29
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    @KRyan please see Google link: things to "on the weekend" In BrEng "at Christmas" used this way is perfectly fine. – Mari-Lou A Nov 22 '16 at 13:32
  • Just as on Christmas is short for on Christmas day,....(John Lawler) – user5267 Nov 23 '16 at 19:13
  • @AbsoluteBeginner but note Khan, Colin Fine, and TRomano's answers, none of whom have said "on Christmas" is acceptable, and neither would have I if it hadn't ben for KRyan's comment beneath TRomano's answer. – Mari-Lou A Nov 23 '16 at 19:18
  • It appears to be a random, local usage rather that a specific English dialect one. – user5267 Nov 23 '16 at 19:21
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You use "at Christmas" when saying that something happens during the* Christmas holiday period. For example: I'll see you at Christmas.

You say "on Christmas Day" when saying that something happens on December, 25th. For example: I have to work on Christmas Day. (LONGMAN DICTIONARY).

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