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Carol of the Bells, or, the Ukrainian Carol

Updated on December 12, 2012

The Carol of the Bells, or the Ukrainian Carol is one of the most-loved Christmas carols of all time; it has been recorded by numerous artists, choirs and orchestras since the 1930s

The song was written by Mykola Leontovych in 1904 and entitled Shchedryk; it was first performed at Carnegie Hall in New York City in 1921 by the Ukrainian National Chorus. The song was adapted into English by Peter J. Wilhousky in the 1930s.

Carol of the Bells was not originally a Christmas song; the original Ukrainian lyrics are about “a swallow flying into a household to sing of wealth” to come to a family in spring. The English lyrics were inspired by a Slavic legend that stated that all the bells on earth rang out on midnight the day Jesus was born.


Christmas Music

While I am not a religious person, I appreciate the beautiful music that has come from those who are. I find that most of my favourite Christmas carols are the religious ones, rather than the poppy secular ones that bore me to death. However, I do have a few favourites among the secular ones such as Fairytale of New York and I Believe in Father Christmas.

Carol of the Bells is a difficult song to sing, it is also difficult to catch all the lyrics due to how quickly it is usually sung. It is also often performed as an instrumental by such groups as the Trans-Siberian Orchestra and Mannheim Steamroller. Some of my favourite versions of the song are by Celtic Woman, Orla Fallon and Andy Williams.

The 4 signature notes of Carol of the Bells
The 4 signature notes of Carol of the Bells | Source

Christmas Carol Season

I have written another article where I state that there is a shelf life for Christmas carols. You want to hear them in the weeks living up to Christmas, but after that you don’t want to hear them for another year. Carol of the Bells is one of those carols that I look forward to listening to year after year. It is one of those songs that give me goose-bumps whenever I hear it, no matter who is performing it.

I have also written about the history of O Holy Night, still my all-time favourite Christmas carol. There will also be more articles about Christmas carols to follow so please stay tuned…

Trans-Siberian Orchestra

This seems to be the version of the song that is played most often. It is the perfect background to any of your holiday events.

Celtic Woman

I am a huge fan of Celtic Woman, there doesn't seem to be any song that they don't make more magical. This is a great version of the song.

Carol of the Bells

The lyrics are often hard to understand as they move so quickly. This video gives you the lyrics to sing along with.

Mormon Tabernacle Choir

This is a rich, multi-layered version of the song. As it was originally written as a choral work, this is as close to how the original composer would have wished to hear it as possible.

South Park

A Christmas article about carols has to contain at least one parody version. And here it is.

Which is your Favourite?

Which is your favourite Christmas carol or do you try to avoid them all? Please share your answers in the comments box below.


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  • Denise Handlon profile image

    Denise Handlon 6 years ago from North Carolina

    I did not know that the Carol of the Bells was Ukranian. I have always loved this song. Wonderful choices here to present it. I saw the TS orchestra in Raleigh, NC a couple of years ago and it was a wonderful concert. Like you-I love the Celtic Woman. The version with the lyrics-very helpful, LOL I still wouldn't be able to keep up but at least I understand more of the song. Enjoyed.

  • alekhouse profile image

    Nancy Hinchliff 6 years ago from Essex Junction, Vermont

    Interesting hub. I love the Carol of the Bells. And my favorite rendition is by the Celtic women. They are fantastic singing anything.

  • Meliesa profile image

    Meliesa 6 years ago from Wenatchee, WA

    Here's my favorite: Geoffrey Castle with one violin sounding like a full orchestra.

  • homesteadbound profile image

    Cindy Murdoch 6 years ago from Texas

    That is indeed a beautiful song. I liked all the different renditions that you included.

  • Sally's Trove profile image

    Sherri 6 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania

    Celtic Woman wins, for me, in this awesome collection. When I was a schoolgirl, I sang in an Episcopal choir. Carol of the Bells was our favorite Christmas song to perform. Thanks for the history, none of which I knew.