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The Ukrainian New Year’s Carol you didn’t know you knew

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“Carol of the Bells” wasn’t always a Christmas song

You’ve probably never heard of Shchedryk (and probably have even greater difficulties trying to pronounce it), but watch the video above and you’ll quickly recognize a familiar tune. That’s because the Christmas favorite “Carol of the Bells” was not always an English carol, nor was it a Christmas carol.

Shchedryk, meaning “bountiful evening,” is a Ukrainian New Year’s song dating back to 1916. Known in English as “the Little Swallow,” the song tells the story of a swallow that flies into a home and sings of the wealth that will come the following spring. The English translation reads:

Shchedryk, shchedryk, shchedrivka
A little swallow flew
and started to twitter,
to summon the master:
“Come out, come out, O master,
look at the sheep pen,
there the ewes have stumbled
and the lambkins have been born
Your goods are great,
you will have a lot of money,
if not money, then chaff:
you have a dark-eyebrowed wife.
Shchedryk, shchedryk, a shchedrivka,
A little swallow flew.

Cecilia Music

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