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Top Ukrainian Christmas carols

Ukrainian Christmas carols

It’s early January and we are not late :)

Ukraine, just all other Christian countries that live by the Julian calendar, celebrates Christmas on January 6 and 7.

Can you imagine Christmas without carols? We neither can.

So here is collection of top Ukrainian Christmas carols and some of them might sound surprisingly familiar to you.

Kolyadka vs Shchedrivka

Ukrainian Christmas carols

First of all we need to make it clear that there are two types of songs for winter holidays: kolyadka or carol and shchedrivka.

Carols are traditionally sung on Christmas, January 6-7 and shchedrivky are performed on January 13 (that is December 31 according to the old style).

These two types of songs are different not only by the time they are performed. Carols of kolyadky are mostly about birth of Jesus Christ while shchedrivky were sung an New Year Eve and their sense comes to wishing people joy, wealth and good harvest.

This is an interesting thing that these songs used to be parts of pagan rituals and initially church tried to eliminate them. However, the tradition was too strong and with time it merged with Christian holidays thus creating a unique mixture of old and new religion.

Until XV century Slavic people celebrated New Year in early spring and texts of shchedrisky still have the traces of this tradition. We can hear about birds coming back and birth of domestic animals.

Now, when you know the difference, let’s go!

‘Good evening to you, master’ (Dobry vechir tobi pane gospodaryu) is one of well known Ukrainian carols. It is sung for the master of the house, singers with him good evening and tell about holidays that are approaching.

‘New joy is here’ (Nova radist stala) is another great example of combination of religious rituals and caroling tradition. This song tells the news about birth of Christ as well.

‘News in Bethlehem today’ (Vo Vyfleemi nyni novyna) – this carol tells about Gospel story of birth of Jesus in Bethlehem and bringing gifts to him. The last two couplets is an address to Jesus form Ukrainians asking him to look at Ukraine and send her the gift so that people would glorify him.

‘Silent night’ (Tyha nich) – this Christmas carol is translation from original written in Austria in 1818. Here is an amazing version of this song performed by Pikkardiyska Tertsiya, a well known Ukrainian a cappella vocal group.

‘Carol of the Bells’ – originally Shchedryk.

This is the song you know for sure, so let’s explain how it went around the world.

Modern version of ‘Carol of the Bells’ was arranged by composer Mykola Leontovych. This song was the work of his entire life. From 1902 to 1919 Leontovych published five versions of his arrangement. In 1922 the song was performed in New York and 14 years later American of Ukrainian origin translated the text into English.

Since then ‘Carol of the Bells’ became one of traditional Christmas carols and with coming of YouTube era its popularity even increased. There are many well known cover versions. Here at LifeinUA we like the version of Pentatonix and that one of Steven Nelson from ThePianoGuys.

A cappella tune by Pentatonix created a new wave of covers of the cover in Ukraine. Some a cappella groups used Pentatonix style and original text in Ukrainian. The best cover was done by a group of choirs in 2013.

There is even a rock version of this song performed by volunteers of Ukrainian military formation. New interpretation of this shchedrivka sounds fresh and unexpected.

‘Heaven and Earth rejoice now’ (Nebo I zemlya nyni torzhestvuyt) – another famous carol telling about birth of Jesus Christ and joy that people feel.

‘God is born’ (Bog sya rozhdaye)– carol composed in late XIX century. The text mentions Mary, Joseph, three wise men with gifts and shepherds.

‘The old year is passing’ (Stary rik mynaye)– another traditional song mostly sung in western part of Ukraine. It tells about coming of the new year that bring happiness to the house. We suggest you the modern version done by Ukrainian singe DZIDZIO.

‘Holy Virgin bore a song’ (Prechystaya Diva syna porodyla) – carol tells the news of the birth of the Savior, wise men that bring him gifts. There are also lines that call to bow to Jesus and glorify him.

‘Oh the grey cuckoo’ (Oy syvaya ta I zozulenka) this shchedrivka if full of astral symbols. The bird cuckoo symbolizes the coming of spring (remember that few centuries ago New Year was celebrated in early spring). The bird looks into the church where she sees moon – the master, sun – his wife and their children – stars.

The team of LifeinUA wished you Merry Christmas and lots of love!

Source: YouTube, Wikipedia,

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