Kid Music Series: Christmas Songs From Around The World
Mexican Christmas Play
Christmas Songs You May Not Know About
In the U.S. and many parts of the world, there are many common and old (loved) Christmas songs. But also, all over the world, Christmas 'bells' ring in different languages, different customs and different melodies. Why not expand your Christmas music experience and include these wonderful new-to-you songs from around the globe?
Religious Quote: Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all the earth: make a loud noise, and rejoice, and sing praise. -Psalm 98:4
Music Traditions: During the Christmas Holidays, Christians visit loved ones, share food,exchange gifts and celebrate the birth of the Christ child. Many gather around the piano to sing. Sometimes groups walk the streets and sing carols to spread the joy and warm the hearts.
These songs are so well-loved and popular that they are recognized all around the world whether you are Christian or not. Christmas music ranges from the religious Silent Night to the whimsical Rudolph to the more nostalgic I'll be Home for Christmas.
Commercialism is now an issue with the Christmas season. Santa Claus is a wonderful symbol of love and giving, but unfortunately sometimes he gets more attention than the religious meaning of Christmas. While teaching general music, I organized a Holiday Singalong for the school that would include Hanukkah, Kwanza, Eid and Ayyam-i-Ha Songs. For Christmas songs, I made a conscious decision to not do Santa songs (although there is nothing wrong with that!). Instead, I included Christmas 'Party' songs. I felt it would be fun to learn catchy tunes that were not the usual Deck the Halls or Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (although I love them too).
Nochebuena is a Mexican Christmas Eve song. In Mexico, there are celebrations and festive parties throughout the holidays. The bunuelos in the song are actually pastries that are made of various ingredients; deep fried flour, brushed with honey and then covered with cinnamon powder. It reminds me of my Mom's scraps from making pie crusts. We laid the dough on sheets and added cinnamon powder. I almost liked those more than the pie! There is a beautiful rendition of Nochebuena in the album De Colores and Other Latin American Folk Songs for Children by Jose-Luis Orozco.
There Was a Pig Went Out to Dig - English Traditional
From England to the New World
I love this precious Appalachian version of a traditional English children's song. It's a retelling of the story of the miracle when animals talked and did amazing things on Christmas. In these lyrics, the animals each have their own job on the farm. An additional version I can recommend is in the recording Carols for All Seasons by Jean Ritchie and A Child's Christmas Revels by the Revels Chorus.
Pat a Pan - French Carol
Pat a Pan
Over 300 hundred years ago, Bernard de la Monnoye wrote this gorgeous French Christmas Carol. La Monnoye was a writer, a poet and an intellectual that was known for his individual thinking and prolific writing throughout his life. His Borguignon (French dialect) Carols have withstood the weight of time. Here is one that is a personal favorite. A good recording with the song is Counterpoint Sings Noel by Counterpoint.
Bake the Johnny Cake - (Christmas Coming)
Mama Bake the Johnny Cake
This Caribbean song is popular during Christmas and New Year time. A Johnny Cake is like a pancake or a quickbread and is a real treat during the Holidays. Johnny cakes originated in England and were brought over to the Caribbean Islands where they are still popular today.
Live Performances! Pat a Pan
Bake the Johnny Cake (song only)
There Was a Pig Went Out to Dig
Popular Christmas Music from Everyone
The Beginning of It All.
What many don’t realize is that so many of the popular movie Christmas music from the 40’s and 50’s was written by Jewish composers.
Robert Everett Green, in an article for Globe and Mail, said that it took Christmas outsiders to be able to verbalize in song the sentimentality of the season so that almost everyone, even non-Christians could enjoy the festivities and the celebration of love and family. In addition, the United States (from its European roots) has a history of Christmas and snow. Think of Charles Dicken's Christmas Carol story. Snow and Christmas are combined in our collective memory and influenced the stories and the songs that were written in post-war America.
A large list of songs written by Jewish composers can be found in this article- Schmeck the Halls: How Jewish songwriters created Christmas.