Christmas In Any Language

by Teresa Jennings

The first and most important thing we want to tell you about this song is: DON'T PANIC! When you see the foreign words on the music or the lyric sheet, you may immediately resist the idea of even trying this song. But, we hope that's not your response. We hope you calmly, rationally read through these notes and consider your (reasonable!) options.

First, we decided to bring you a song like this as a much-requested outlet for those of you who have children of varying nationalities and backgrounds in your classes. You do NOT have to use the foreign greetings we have indicated! In fact, we encourage you to replace any and all of them with greetings that your students can share from their own ethnic diversity. Even if students do not speak foreign languages themselves, we're willing to bet that someone in their family (neighborhood, church, etc.) does. And don't forget to ask your fellow teachers, administrators, and so on. That's how we came up with the words we used - we asked around.

Second, if you're really spooked, you don't have to use the foreign words at all. Or, if you're only a little spooked, use a few foreign words you feel comfortable with and use them several times in the song instead of trying to come up with all different ones.

Third, if you decide you do want to use some or all of the words we used on the recording, we have provided a pronunciation guide for you to use on our web site. (See note in second column.) At this point, we would like to issue a big disclaimer. As we said, we asked around about our greetings and their pronunciations. We don't guarantee their accuracy. We have no doubt that there will be some who hear our youthful, "Americanized" versions and think we're all wet. That's okay. You will have kids who pronounce things the way their grandparents did that maybe someone else's grandparents would disagree with. It's no big deal. Also think of this. In America, we typically say "Merry Christmas." But ask someone from Maine to say it, then ask someone from Alabama. Now ask someone from Minnesota, then ask someone from California. Do you see our point? Or more accurately, do you hear it? What works for you and your students is perfectly acceptable.

And by the way, even though the song is about Christmas, the greetings do not have to specifically indicate this holiday. They can be general, if you like. A couple of ours are.

We hope that the first thing that strikes you as you listen to the recording is the wonderful brass opening. It instantly evokes the Christmas spirit! Written in a very joyful style, the song would make a perfect opener or closer for any Christmas concert. The world beat allows for an international flavor and the recording includes percussion instruments from around the world. As a part of your performance, consider adding a few ethnic percussion instruments, too. They can just groove along with the tracks, or stop and start periodically as you indicate.

The melody is syncopated as you might expect with a world beat. But it is still quite simple and easily learned. Just let students read along with the vocalists on the CD and they'll have it in no time. Do point out to them the dynamic lifts at measures 33 and 37, as well as the subito mezzo forte at measure 41 which crescendos into the forte at measure 47. The Gs in parentheses at measures 49 and 50 in part 1 are optional alternate notes in case the Ds are a bit out of reach. The divisi at the end is also optional and students can just sing the lower notes if you prefer.

Part 2 is an optional part which enters for the first time at the chorus (measure 51). We used our older singers for this on the CD. For your convenience, we have isolated the second part and put it on our web site as a free rehearsal track. (See note below.)

A great way to make this song visually exciting is to add costumes. Either use costumes from the countries whose greetings you decide to use, or just use a variety of holiday costumes from around the world. Add to this the percussion we mentioned earlier, and you will have a properly international event!

To top it off, we have included illustrations of the sign language for the words "merry (happy)" and "Christmas." These can be found on the lyric sheet on page 31. One way to use them is to have everyone or a select group of students sign the words each time the greeting is stated in any language. Very effective!

If you're interested in knowing what our foreign language choices were, here is a little guide:

    Merry Christmas! English

    ¡Feliz Navidad! Spanish

    Geseënde Kersfees! Afrikaans

    S Rozhdestvom! Russian

    Frohe Weihnachten! German

    Glædelig Jul! Danish

    Joyeux Noël! French

    Kala Christouyenna! Greek

    Mele Kalikimaka! Hawaiian

    Mo'adim Lesimkha! Hebrew

    Buon Natale! Italian

    Sheng Dankuai Le! Mandarin Chinese

    Vrolijk Kerstfeest! Dutch

    Hristos se rodi! Serbian

    Feliz Natal! Brazilian Portuguese

A very special thank you goes to Jim Ziegler and Katie Ebel for their help in putting together the pronunciations for our kids to learn from. Thanks also to Tom Crowell, Kristyn Johnson, Joanna King, Nicki Chaconas, John Bolt, Steve Millikan, and Leela Rothenberg. (And thanks to their relatives and friends for helping as well!)

Online extras - We have isolated part 2 and put it online as a free MP3 for your students to use when learning this song. We have also included a pronunciation guide for the foreign words we used. You will find these under the "Graphics and Extras" for Volume 16, No. 2 at

Text is taken from Music K-8 magazine.