Five Festive Music-Born Traditions from Around the World!
Many would agree that it simply isn’t Christmas without the perfect soundtrack; so, in the spirit of the yuletide season, we have investigated how music is used around the world to celebrate Christmas.
1 | Africa – Democratic Republic of Congo
In the Democratic Republic of Congo, Christmas is a time to reflect on the religious aspect of the festival. As a result, music is integral to celebrations, with churches hosting multiple choirs and performances of the nativity play on Christmas Eve.
The services are usually very long, with the plays starting with the story of the Garden of Eden and concluding with the story of Herod’s mission to extinguish the light of the Messiah. Jesus’ birth is usually timed to coincide with midnight, meaning the service usually goes on until at least 1am, though it is not unusual for celebrations to continue until dawn on Christmas morning.
How to say “Merry Christmas” in Lingala: Mbotama Malamu
2 | Asia – China
In China, only 1% of the population are Christian, so Christmas is generally only celebrated in large cities.
Interestingly, the carol “Silent Night” has popularised a tradition of giving apples on Christmas Eve; many shops wrap apples up in coloured paper for people to buy. The reason being that, in Chinese, Christmas is called “Ping’an Ye” (平安夜), which means peaceful or quiet evening; a concept translated from the carol ‘Silent Night‘. Ironically, the Mandarin for apple is “píngguǒ” (苹果), which sounds like the word for peace.
And, despite “Silent Night” being the carol that has had the most impact on Chinese Christmas traditions… “Jingle Bells” is the nation’s favourite carol!
How to say “Merry Christmas” in Chinese: Sheng Dan Kuai Le or 圣诞快乐’ in Mandarin OR Seng Dan Fai Lok or 聖誕快樂’ in Cantonese
3 | Australasia – New Zealand
If you’re getting bored of hearing the same carols every year, New Zealand is the destination for you; they have their very own!
How to say “Merry Christmas” in Maori: ‘Meri Kirihimete’
4 | Europe – Norway
The clear winners of music at Christmas (as unanimously voted for at Teach Major headquarters) are Norway. In 1946, a man called Alf Proysen wrote a traditional folk tune called Musevisa (The Mouse Story), which tells the story of a family of mice as they prepare for Christmas.
The lyrics tell how the Mama and Papa mouse warn their children to stay away from the mouse traps. It rose in popularity very quickly, and still remains one of Norways most well-loved Christmas songs.
How to say “Merry Christmas” in Norweigan: ‘God Jul’ or ‘Gledelig Jul’
5 | South America – Venezuela
Renowned for hosting the most colourful Christmas in the world, Venezuela also lives up to expectation when it comes to the ultimate Christmas playlist.
Traditional Christmas music there is known as ‘Gaita’, which is a type of folk music from the Zulia state. It is usually played on a 4-stringed guitar (Cuatro), a Venezuelan drum (Tambora), a drum with a stick through the middle of the skin – used to change the sounds – (Furro), and a rubbed wooden tube that you rub a stick along (Charrasca). Any vocalists that might accompany are known as ‘Gaiteros’.
Another type of music, popular in Venezuela at Christmas time, is ‘Aguinaldos Y Parrandas’; which is reminiscent of traditional carolling.
How to say “Merry Christmas” in Venezuela: ‘Feliz Navidad’