Life in Ukraine. Live, @ first hand.

Leontovych’s “Shchedryk” and True Christmas Magic


The whole world knows the heart-piercingly beautiful melody of “Carol of the Bells”. But only few are aware of the amazing history behind this Christmas classic.


“Shchedryk” became popular thanks to the famous Ukrainian composer Mykola Leontovych. The first edition of “Shchedryk” was written around 1901-1902. For the first time, “Shchedryk” was performed by the Choir of Kyiv University in 1916 in Kyiv, and on October 5, 1921, “Shchedryk” was first presented at a concert at Carnegie Hall in New York. In 1936, Peter Wilkhovsky (also from Ukraine), who worked for the NBC radio, wrote the English version of the words to “Shchedryk” – “Carol of the Bells”.


The song is immensely popular in the Western world. It was featured in the soundtracks to iconic movies “Harry Potter”, “Home Alone” and the animated series “South Park”. The original interpretations of the work were made by well-known rock bands “Barenaked Ladies” and “Savatage”, while DJ Demonix’s “techno-dance” version has now become a classic of the electronic underground. “Carol of the Bells” has many interpretations – from classics to rock, rap, rave and disco variants. But only few people know of its Ukrainian origin and the difference in meaning between its English and Ukrainian variants.


“Shchedryk” is a New Year’s carol. In Ukraine the New Year was celebrated by our ancestors with the arrival of spring, when everything was awake and revived. At this very time Shchedryk was sung as a promise of the abundance and prosperity to come with the arrival of swallows. In the West this hymn of spring and its riches has turned into a mesmerizing chime of Christmas bells embodying the magic of the winter holidays. But no matter how different these two versions are, both of them possess this unique quality to touch your heart and open it to the beauty of music, to kindness and hope. And this looks like a true Christmas magic.

We invite you to listen to various versions of “Shchedryk” gathered in this compilation

You can compare its Ukrainian and English lyrics here. 

Source (the history behind “Shchedryk”):

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