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12 Songs of Christmas (from all around the world)

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BEN STANSALL / AFP

Matthew Becklo - published on 12/23/16 - updated on 06/07/17

We are one body, one flock, one family

One of the great privileges of writing for Aleteia is seeing your words and ideas reach people all over the world. Even with our English Edition, our readership on social media seems routinely to transcend continental divides.

This is a testimony to the hard work of Aleteia’s staff and writers. But it also speaks to the great breadth of the faith across political and cultural lines. The Church draws together what Japanese novelist Shusaku Endo called “the full symphony of humanity,” and it does it without compromising either the diversity of its parts or the unity of its whole. We are one body, one flock, one family. It’s an amazing and powerful thing to be a part of, especially in an era increasingly marked by tribalism and atomism.

In that spirit, here is a collection of 12 Christmas songs from all around the world. These songs are all very different: some are new, some old; some are energetic, some meditative; some are well-known, some you likely never heard until now. But they are all inspired by the birth of Christ to Mary in Bethlehem. You’ll need the translations (provided below each video) to understand what’s being said, but you won’t need them to understand why. These songs bind us in a spirit of awe and celebration, because at their heart is an event that changed the course of all our lives – and all of human life – forever.

Merry Christmas!

1. “Przybieżeli do Betlejem” (Poland)

I regularly heard this traditional carol, sung here by the Filharmonia Narodowa choir of Poland, in my hometown church, which was deeply rooted in an immigrant Polish community. “Przybieżeli do Betlejem” is about the joy and gratitude of the shepherds coming to see the infant Jesus in Bethlehem. (English translation here.)

2. “Betelehemu” (Nigeria)

“Betelehemu,” sung in the Yoruba language of West Africa, is a song of adoration of God and celebration of the Son’s arrival in that “city of wonder.” Above is a powerful performance of “Betelehemu” delivered by The Morehouse College Glee Club at WNYC. (English translation here.)

3. “The Lamb” (England)

English visionary William Blake’s poem “The Lamb” takes on a haunting and transcendent character in John Tavener’s 1982 composition. The King’s College Choir of Cambridge performs this song the way it was probably intended to be: surrounded by flickering candles in a dark church. (Lyrics here.)

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