Culture and Religion, Knowledge

Christmas Traditions: Is Christmas Without Singing Even Possible?

Today, I’m posting the promised follow-up on how our Eastern neighbours celebrate Christmas. It’s Christmas tradition time! I will share some information about Christmas music and songs, because would it be even possible to celebrate any real feast without good music? Did you know that there are two types of Christmas-related songs in Ukraine? Let’s get started with something we know very well here in Poland: the carols (Polish singular kolęda, plural kolędy). In Ukrainian they are called kolyadkas, so the name is quite similar.

One of my favourite carols is called ‘Oh Earth Rejoice – The Son Of God Is Born’. There are many renditions of this carol on Youtube, yet this version seems the most traditional to me; it’s not eccentric and doesn’t include any modern arrangement tricks.

The other type of songs are ones which are sung a few days later, during the so called Old New Year celebration. Do you recall the thirteen-day difference between the old and new calendar I mentioned in my previous post? This is exactly where this peculiar concept of an Old New Year, i.e. the New Year’s Eve according to the old calendar, comes from. It is on 13th January, i.e. on the eve of Old New Year, that girls go door-to-door around the neighbourhood and sing shchedrivkas – songs with best wishes for the householders.

One of the most popular shchedrivkas is called Shchedryk. You might recognise this song; interestingly enough, the Americans like to use this tune in their movies and animations (‘Home Alone’, ‘Harry Potter’, ‘The Simpsons’ or ‘South Park’). Here is an English version of the song performed by the wonderful band Pentatonix.

and here is the original; it’s without any contemporary arrangements and it’s performed in a beautiful scenery of ancient mosaics and frescoes of one of the world’s oldest Orthodox churches – Saint Sophia Cathedral in Kiev (Ukrainian Sobor Sviatoyi Sofiyi).

I hope these few examples of songs will encourage you to enjoy the Christmas atmosphere for a bit longer. It’s nice to take a break to think about their true meaning.