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December 2014

Christmas Songs Inspired by Cultures Around the World

Learn how to wish a Merry Christmas from around the world!

Between the traditional Christmas songs we all know and love to the million dollar-earning pop sensations from the past two decades, there are those inspired by cultures from around the world, songs wishing “Merry Christmas” in various languages. Never forget how to wish someone a joyous season again when you sing along to these catchy tunes. Today we’ll examine several Christmas songs inspired by unique cultures that are commonly heard in the West.

“Mele Kalikimaka”

From the warm Hawaiian Islands, where it’s always sunny and the idea of a traditional white Christmas is only alluded to, comes a phrase now widely popular around the world thanks to one Bing Crosby. The lyrics read: “Mele Kalikimaka is the word to say / On a bright Hawaiian Christmas day / That's the island greeting that we send to you / From the land where palm trees sway".

Hawaii celebrates Christmas much like the rest of the West, with Christmas trees (imported by several large cargo ships each year), traditional cuisine, and a spectacle of lights at the Honolulu City Hall popularly known as the “Honolulu City Lights”.

Listen to “Mele Kalikimaka”

“Buon Natale”

Legendary crooner Nat King Cole offers Christmas wishes in the Italian style with his hit song “Buon Natale”. In Italy, traditions include the consumption of a cake known as Panettone. While it is popularized across the world, properly made Panettone certainly beats the commercially made variety (this is where Italian nonni, or “grandparents”, come in). Aside from classic Christmas traditions, Italians also celebrate the Epiphany, a time when the Befana (an old gift-giving crone) pays children a visit.

Mr. Cole sings, "Buon Natale, means Merry Christmas to you / Buon Natale to everyone, Happy New Year and lots of fun / Buon Natale, may all your wishes come true / Buon Natale in Italy means Merry Christmas to you."

Listen to “Buon Natale”

“Feliz Navidad”

In 1970, Puerto Rican singer-songwriter José Feliciano composed what would be one of the most popular pop Christmas songs in the world, as well as one of very few sung completely in a language other than English. "Feliz Navidad" became a staple in schools and radio stations alike. Today, it is one of the most downloaded and played Christmas songs in North America, and one of the most played around the world. Artists such as Celine Dion and Michael Bublé have recorded their own covers of the song as well.

Navidad ("Christmas Eve" in Spanish) in Puerto Rico is celebrated with traditional food items such as arroz con dulce (sweet rice pudding, often with coconut) and lechón asado (roasted pig). Religious songs are sung and participants attend the misas de aguinaldo, masses at dawn where aguinaldos (carols) are sung.

Sing along with José: “Feliz Navidad / Feliz Navidad / Feliz Navidad / Prospero año y Felicidad / I wanna wish you a Merry Christmas / I wanna wish you a Merry Christmas / I wanna wish you a Merry Christmas / From the bottom of my heart.”

Listen to “Feliz Navidad”

What is your favorite Christmas song? Let us know on Facebook and be sure to “like” TELC English for more articles on culture from around the world!

Foto: © eyetronic