It’s Chistmas-time again – and what would this time of year be without Christmas music? A lot of us start counting the days ’till Christmas from the moment “Last Christmas” surprises us in a shopping center sometime around November 20th. With the ongoing corona pandemic, the Danish Health Authorities recommend that people don’t sing on Christmas Eve as is otherwise customary – a recommendation that has received continuing media coverage since the end of November. In other words: We can’t get enough of Christmas songs!
Or maybe Christmas music just isn’t your thing. Is it really possible to listen to ”All I Want for Christmas is You” throughout December without losing your mind, you might be thinking. I mean, I’d say it is, but… I get it. You need something new – something different! I’ve dug around on the internet and asked Twitter for help, and now I’m happy to present to you: NOW THAT’S WHAT I CALL LINGUISTIC CHRISTMAS: 27 Christmas songs in languages and dialects you (might) not be used to hearing them in!
Hator, Hator (Basque)
A classic Christmas song in Basque, the only language isolate in Europe. Hator, hator means ‘Come, come’ – the song’s first few lines translate to ”Come home, come home, little boy – come home and eat roasted chestnuts to celebrate Christmas night.”
Den synnejysk julesang (South Jutlandic)
’The Southern Jutlandic Christmas Song’ is a version of “The 12 days of Christmas” in South Jutlandic, a southern Danish dialect. In the song, the singers describe different things their grandmother brought them for Christmas, including a marzipan pig, six caramelized potatoes and five bottles of schnapps!
A Natale Puoi (Italian)
The first few lines of this Italian Christmas song go “When it’s Christmas, you can do what you can’t ever do; you can start to play again, you can start to dream again.”
Talj, talj (Arabic)
Talj, talj (’Snow, snow’) is from Lebanon and it’s sung by one of the Arab world’s most famous and acclaimed singers, Fairuz.
Merry & Happy (Korean)
The Korean pop music scene is huge, and obviously, there are quite a few Christmas songs to choose from too. Here is one from the girl group TWICE.
Quan Somrius (Catalan)
Quan Somrius (’When you smile’) is a Christmas collaboration between several Catalan speaking and singing pop groups!
I Yust Go Nuts at Christmas (Swedish-American English)
The Norwegian-American comedian Harry Stewart’s popular Swedish-American character Yorgi Yorgesson had quite a Christmas hit in 1949 – yust listen here!
Oi, koledo (Bulgarian)
Here is a Bulgarian Christmas song. The title translates to ‘Oh, Christmas’.
Mama, Donde Estan los Jugetes (Spanish)
I received a few different suggestions for Spanish Christmas songs, but I had to choose this one which came with the following description: ”The best/worst Christmas song in Spanish: Where a mother gaslights her son into believing it was his fault that the Baby Jesus didn’t bring him any presents for Christmas”! (Thanks, Camilo Ronderos!)
The Nigerian drummer, activist and educator Babatunde Olatunji wrote this carol in collaboration with Wendell P. Whalum for the glee club at Morehouse College in Georgia in the beginning of the 1950’s. The song is still part of the glee club’s repertoire – here, they perform it in 2018:
Narodil se Kristus Pán (Czech)
A typical Czech Christmas song. The title translates to ‘Christ the Lord was born.’
Chidda notti disiata (Sicilian)
In Sicily, people not only speak Italian but also Sicilian, which is classified as its own language (and not a dialect of Italian – thanks, Virginia Calabria)! Here is a song from a whole album of Sicilian Christmas songs!
Te Kaiwhakaora O Te Ao (Maori)
The New Zealand singer Theia writes lyrics in both English and Maori. Last year, she released this Christmas song in Maori, stating: “I wrote ‘Te Kaiwhakaora O Te Ao’ as a gift to our people – a traditional Christmas hymn to call our own”. The title translates to ‘Saviour of the World’.
Es wird schon glei dumpa (Austro-Bavarian)
Austro-Bavarian is spoken in Bavaria (southern Germany) and Austria. This song was composed in the Austro-Bavarian language variety by an Austrian poet and has since become a popular Christmas song. The title translates to ‘It will soon get dark’.
Here is an Estonian Christmas song. The title translates to ‘Christmas angel’.
Deda Mraze ne Skreci Sa Stace (Serbian/Bosnian/Croatian)
Aleksandra Salamurovic sent me a few different suggestions for Christmas songs – this one had the following message: ”The first one, in Bosnian/Croatian/Serbian, from Yugoslav times (from my childhood).” The title translates to ‘Father Frost, don’t stray from your path’.
Los tres rei (Asturian)
Here is a Christmas song about the three wise men in Asturian which is spoken in parts of Spain.
In der Weihnachtsbäckerei / Die Nacht ist Vorgedrungen (German)
I also recieved a lot of great sugestions for German Christmas songs, and I ended up choosing two very different ones. The first one was sent with the description “This is the ultimate German classic for children” (thanks, Dennis Dressel)! The other has an interesting, but dark backstory; it was written as a poem in 1937 by Jochen Klepper and is about how even in the darkest of times, there will be light again.
Tulkoon joulu (Finnish)
Tulkoon joulu (’Let Christmas come’) is a Finnish Christmas song by Pekka Simojoki. Here it is in the band Raskasta Joulua’s version. This band’s name means ’Heavy Christmas’, and since 2004 they have specialized in heavy metal versions of Finnish Christmas songs!
V Viflejemi Novina (Rusyn)
Here is a Christmas song in Rusyn, a (South)east Slavic variety.
Holy Moly Holy Night (Japanese)
A Christmas hit from this year from Japanese pop musicians CHANMINA and SKY-HI!
Nadal de luintra (Galician)
Here’s another Christmas song from a minority language in Spain, Galician.
Jul, jul, strålande jul (Swedish)
A very popular Christmas song in all of Scandinavia. Danish and Norwegian versions have been made too, but here it is in the original language. The title translates to ’Christmas, Christmas, Glorious Christmas.’
Als de Eerste Sneeuw Valt (Dutch)
Here is another new song, this time from the Netherlands! The title translates to ‘As the first snow falls.’
V Lesu Rodilasj Elochka (Russian)
V Lesu Rodilasj Elochka (’A New Year’s tree was born in the forest’) is the most famous Russian Christmas song for kids – or rather, New Year’s song. In Russia, it is New Year and not Christmas that is celebrated with a decorated tree and presents!
It’s Hard to Be a Nissemand (Nisse English)
Danish comedy group De Nattergale created their iconic mixed language Nisse English (combining Jutlandic Danish with English) for their TV advent calendar “The Julekalender” in 1991. Though the show is full of amazing songs in Nisse English, “It’s Hard to Be a Nissemand [roughly ‘Christmas elf’]” might be the most well-known.
That’s all for now! A HUGE thank you goes to Aleksandra Salamurovic, Andrea Bruun, Anna-Kaisa Jokipohja, Bea Gómez Vidal, Bilyana Todorova, Camilo Ronderos, Dennis Dressel, Elena Castroviejo, @Elenaryk, Eleonora Sciubba, Elisabeth Apicella, Franco Pauletto, Hanna Thaler, Jakub Mlynář, Kristian Mortensen, Nicholas Mikkelsen, Sergio López-Sancio, Sofia Navarro, Sophia Fiedler, @TioMiel, Virginia Calabria and @whereabeat, who sent me links and information on Christmas songs on Twitter! You can find the whole Twitter thread here, if you want to see a few more songs that didn’t make it this time around!
Find a playlist with most of the songs listed above here.
Happy holidays, everyone!
Maria Jørgensen is a PhD student at Aarhus University, where she’s exploring the grammar of questions and answers in Danish talk-in-interaction. And also, she loves music in different languages!