Christmas traditions


Video credit: welcome2ukraine, “Колядка “Щедрик” Schedryk – “Ukrainian Bell Carol”” January 16, 2011, via YouTube.

Dear All,
Today I would like to speak about Christmas traditions in some countries and particularly about the date of celebrating Christmas and one of the best known Christmas carols, “Carol of the Bells”.

In some countries (e.g. in Canada, France, Great Britain, Spain, Poland, the Netherlands), Christmas is celebrated on the 25th of December, while in other countries, it is celebrated on the 7th of January (e.g. in Belarus, Georgia, Ukraine). This difference in the date of celebration is explicated by the fact that two different calendars are used: in the first case – the Gregorian calendar (the one which we also use in everyday life) and in the second case – the Julian calendar (the one which was widely used in the past). In Catholicism and Protestantism, the Gregorian (new) calendar is used, while in Orthodoxy, the Julian (old) calendar is still used. Therefore, if you intend to travel to Ukraine or Belarus, for example, you may expect that people celebrate Christmas on the 7th of January there. It is also worth mentioning that the exact day when Jesus Christ was born is unknown and we celebrate not the exact date, but the fact that He was born and that people have hope.

Another thing that I would like to discuss is the famous carol known as “Carol of the Bells”. It is used in many different movies (e.g. Harry Potter) and is well known in many English-speaking countries, including Canada, Australia, and Great Britain. The interesting fact, which is not very well known, is that the carol is actually Ukrainian song “Shchedryk”. The music was written by the Ukrainian composer Mykola Leontovych. The lyrics for the English-language version were written by Peter J. Wilhousky. The English language lyrics are copyrighted, although the original composition is not. The carol was popularized among western audiences by the Ukrainian National Chorus during its tour (starting in 1919) in Europe and the Americas.

The Ukrainian version of the song is traditionally performed on the eve of the Julian New Year (the Julian New Year is on the 14th of January). The song is about a swallow which flies to the master of the house to proclaim the plentiful year for him and his family. The video above features the traditional version of “Shchedryk” in Ukrainian. The choir singers are dressed in traditional Ukrainian clothes and are singing in a Church in the city of Lviv, Ukraine.

The video below is a modern version of “Carol of the Bells” by Pentatonix.

Video credit: PTXofficial, “[Official Video] Carol of the Bells – Pentatonix” November 14, 2012, via YouTube.

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