We all know the classics. ‘Silent Night’, ‘Jingle Bells’, and ‘Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer’ are all sure to be a part of your Christmas playlist this holiday season. If you’re getting sick of the same carols every year, or just want to spice up your Christmas party, there’s a whole world of Christmas songs that you’ve probably never heard of before. So, throw on a Santa hat and get ready to dance with 16 of the best Christmas songs from around the world.
Aguinaldo Criollo – Venezuela
This carol has a folksy vibe that may be unfamiliar to many of us but it is hugely popular in Venezuela. The song wonders what the fate of baby Jesus may have been if “the Virgin were from the Andes and Joseph the country”. The song goes on to describe his “face tanned by the sun” and the “finely woven” hammock the baby would rest in in place of a manger.
Tu Scendi Dalla Stelle – Italy
Italy has no shortage of Christmas carols but ‘Tu Scendi Delle Stelle’ (which translates to ‘You come down from the stars’ in English) is one of the oldest and most popular.
Written in 1732 by Saint Alphonsus Liguori, there’s no escaping this carol at Christmas time in Italy. It is often sung by children’s choirs and tells the story of Jesus and his birth in a manger.
The Aussie Christmas Song – Australia
Australia might not the first place that comes to mind when you think of Christmas. Especially when we often associate the festive season with snow, reindeer, and pine trees. Surprising though it may seem, the Land Down Under has produced a few traditional Christmas ballads. However, ‘The Aussie Christmas Song’ perhaps best captures the uniqueness of an Aussie Christmas: backyard cricket, relaxing on the beach, and Santa in his “shorts and thongs (flip-flops)”.
Petit Papa Noel – France
‘Petit Papa Noel’ is France’s all-time bestselling single, with over 5,770,000 units sold in the 75 years since it’s first recording in 1946.
The carol is sung from the perspective of a small child anxiously awaiting the arrival of ‘Little Father Christmas’. While eagerly awaiting the arrival of Santa Claus, the protagonist is also concerned about making sure Santa stays warm.
Khamosh Hai Raath – India
While the name of this Christmas carol may be unfamiliar to those who don’t speak Hindi, you’ll definitely be familiar with this popular Christmastime song. ‘Khamosh hai raath’ or, in English, ‘Silent Night’ was first composed by Franz Xaver Gruber in the 1800s. Sung around the world in December, several Hindi singers have made their own rendition of this popular hymn.
Circenīša Ziemassvētki – Latvia
Circenīša Ziemassvētki, or ‘A Cricket’s Christmas’, isn’t the most uplifting of Christmas carols. A unique addition to this list of the best Christmas songs from around the world; the beautiful melodies accompany this tale of a conversation between a mother and her son. The mother tells her child there is no more bread and, to distract him from his hunger, she describes the beauty of the full moon and promises a future filled with toys.
Räven Raskar Över Isen – Sweden
This traditional Swedish song, which translates to “the fox runs across the ice”, is the perfect holiday dance song. Traditionally performed as a singing game while dancing around the Christmas tree, this carol is also often performed at mid-summer around a may-pole.
The opening verses alternate between the ‘flickornas visa’ (the “girls’ song”, where the participants curtsy) and the ‘pojkarnas visa’ (the “boys’ song, where the participants bow). After the opening verses, the verses may vary.
This traditional Swedish carol is the perfect song to sing (and dance to) if you feel the need to get moving after a big Christmas dinner.
Run (or skate) across the Swedish ice yourself on the Scandinavian Northern Lights tour with Trafalgar.
La Fiesta de Pilito – Puerto Rico
“La Fiesta de Pilito” is evidence that all of our Christmas playlists need more salsa music, and we couldn’t be happier about it!
Sung by the Puerto Rican band El Gran Combo (known as the most popular Salsa group that has ever existed), La Fiesta de Pilito celebrates the best thing about Christmas: the food!
O Du Fröhliche – Germany
‘O du fröliche’ translates to ‘O, you joyful’ in English and tells the story of the birth of Jesus.
This traditional German Christmas carol was composed in the early 1800s and has a backstory that is equal parts heartbreaking and joyful. The author of the lyrics, Johann Daniel Falk, lost four of his seven children to typhoid fever. In response, he founded an orphanage and dedicated ‘O du fröliche’ to the orphans.
This carol is traditionally sung at the end of Christmas Eve services in Protestant churches around Germany.
Betelehemu – Nigeria
This West African carol was written by Nigerian drummer and social activity Babatunde Olatunji in the 1960s. This uplifting carol, in the Yoruba language, is performed by choirs across the world during the Christmas season and is often accompanied by drumming and dancing.
Los Peces en el Rio – Spain
Hugely popular in Spain, ‘Los Peces en el Rio’ can be a bit baffling to those who aren’t familiar with the carol.
The song draws a comparison between the Virgin Mary and a fish, confounding some of us. The story behind the creation of this song is a mystery, as is the identity of the creator.
A Pukeko in a Ponga Tree – New Zealand
‘The Twelve Days of Christmas’ gets a Māori makeover in ‘A Pukeko in a Ponga Tree’.
A pukeko is a bird native to New Zealand that frequently likes to hang out in a ponga trees – a fern tree that is also native to New Zealand. Among the other gifts given during these Twelve Days of New Zealand Christmas are four huhu grubs, three flax kits, two kumara and a pukeko in a ponga tree!
Fall in love with majestic New Zealand when you travel with Trafalgar on the Contrasts of New Zealand tour.
Talj, Talj – Lebanon
We may not associate Lebanon with snowy winters, but that hasn’t stopped this Christmas carol (which translates to ‘Snow, Snow’) from becoming super popular in this Middle Eastern country.
Popularized in the 1960s by legendary singer Fairuz, ‘Talj, Talj’ was a Christmas carol long before. The song tells the tale of baby Jesus’ birth while “snow is falling on the world”.
Ang Pasko ay Sumapit – Philippines
If you’re in the mood to dance, this Filipino favourite is must-have on any Christmas playlist.
‘Ang paso ay sumapit’, or ‘Christmas has arrived’ has an energetic, upbeat melody that is sure to get the family moving on Christmas morning. The popular Tagalog carol emphasizes what’s really important about the Christmas season (love and generosity) and will get even the grumpiest grinch in the Christmas spirit.
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Wexford Carol – Ireland
The Wexford Carol dates back to the 12th century and is popular around Ireland.
The Wexford Carol tells the story of the Virgin Mary, her journey to Bethlehem and the birth of Christ. The carol gained popularity in the 1800s and even has a place in the Oxford Book of Carols. It was first published in 1928 and widely used as a source of carols amongst the choirs and church congregations of Britain.
Will any of these carols make it to your ‘best Christmas songs from around the world’ holiday playlist? Let us know in the comments below! Or, head to our website to read more about the jolliest winter holidays with Trafalgar.