Many of the holidays that we celebrate here in the states are unique to America…think Fourth of July fireworks, green on St. Patrick’s day, turkey and your favorite side at Thanksgiving, celebrating the impact of Martin Luther King Jr., flowers, and chocolates for your sweetheart on Valentine’s day, remembering the sacrifice of those that served on Memorial day, the candy drive also known as, Halloween and some would even say Mardi Gras is a holiday in their family. But Christmas is one holiday that is celebrated in some capacity in many parts of the globe. Some obviously celebrate it more with the commercialization of lights, presents and favorite decorations. I remember a few years ago being in the Philippines and a bit shocked that their malls and homes in surrounding neighborhoods were decorated more than many U.S. malls.  Others obviously celebrate the gospel story and the arrival of our rescuer in Jesus the Christ.

Christmas traditions, both spiritual and commercial vary around the globe. Costa Ricans often decorate their homes with tropical flowers and a nativity scene at the center of the arrangement. Germans embrace the Advent season and the Christmas tree (Tannenbaum) has a central focus in homes going all the way back to the middle ages. Kenyans put a large focus on family and decorate their churches with balloons, ribbons, flowers and bright green foliage. A Cyprus tree is often used for the Christmas tree. The Japananese have more recently gotten into the “Christmas spirit” as the popularity of Christmas cards and presents has started to become more known. China only has about 1% Christians so many don’t know much about Christmas beyond what they have seen on TV or movies, and those that celebrate in some fashion often live in cities. In Ukraine, the main church is the Orthodox Church using the Julian calendar and therefore much of the country celebrates Christmas when we are all taking our lights down and back to work on January 7th. In Australia, it is the summer months beginning in December and they celebrate by having a red flowered “Christmas bush” in their homes. Christmas caroling is common in the land down under, especially on Christmas eve.

Regardless where you spend Christmas around the world songs in some form are likely a part of the traditions. So in the middle of our own 12 Days of Christmas, how about...

12 of the most popular international Christmas songs.

In keeping with the Christmas spirit, our partners, Servant Life compiled a list of Christmas-themed songs from around the globe (including an excerpt of the lyrics!). See how many you recognize and feel free to hum along.

  1. Feliz Navidad – Spanish

Chances are you’re very familiar with this one. This classic Spanish song even helps you out with an English translation and has made it’s way into the popular category here in America.

“Feliz Navidad
Feliz Navidad
Feliz Navidad
próspero año y felicidad. // Feliz Navidad
Feliz Navidad
Feliz Navidad
próspero 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.”

  1. Adeste Fideles – Latin

Maybe Latin isn’t your strong subject. No worries, there’s also an English version to Adeste Fideles that you probably know: O Come, All Ye Faithful.

“Adeste, fideles, laeti, triumphantes,
Venite, venite in Bethlehem:
Natum videte Regem Angelorum: // Venite adoremus, venite adoremus Venite adoremus Dominum.”

  1. Twelve Days of Christmas – English 

No “12 International Christmas songs” list would be complete without the 12 Days of Christmas! (Hope you don’t get too upset if you don’t receive a partridge in a pear tree this year.) 

“On the twelfth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me Twelve drummers drumming, eleven pipers piping, ten lords a-leaping, nine ladies dancing, eight maids a-milking, 
seven swans a-swimming, six geese a-laying, 
Five golden rings. Four calling birds, three French hens, two turtle doves and a partridge in a pear tree.”

  1. Le Divin Enfant – French

This French Christmas carol recounts the birth of Jesus Christ. The last line reads “O Jesus, O all powerful king, rule completely over us.”

“Il est né, le divin Enfant,
Jouez, hautbois, résonnez, musettes;
Il est né, le divin Enfant;
Chantons tous son avènement! // Ô Jésus! Ô Roi tout-puissant!
Tout petit enfant que vous êtes,
Ô Jésus! Ô Roi tout puissant!
Régnez sur nous entièrement!”

  1. Stille Nacht – German

Brush up on your German and sing along with this version of “Silent Night.” I took five years of the language and it is still difficult so don’t feel bad struggling through.

“Stille Nacht! Heilige Nacht!
Alles Schläft, einsam wacht
nur das traute, hochheilige Paar.
Holder Knabe im lockigen Haar,
schlaf in himmlischer Ruh’! (2x)”

  1. Astro del Ciel – Italian 

This popular Italian Christmas carol praises the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ and asks Him to “instill peace into our hearts.”

Astro del ciel, Pargol divin, mite Agnello Redentor! 
Tu che i Vati da lungi sognar, tu che angeliche voci nunziar, 
luce dona alle genti, pace infondi nei cuor! 
luce dona alle genti, pace infondi nei cuor!

  1. Jingle Bells – in Ukrainian 

Need some help translating this one? It’s the ever so popular song, Jingle Bells! Feel free to belt out this Ukrainian version as you’re dashing through the snow in your one horse open sleigh!

Дзвонять дзвони, дзвонять дзвони,

Дзвонять увесь шлях!

Як весело нам їхати

В однокінних санях

Дзвонять дзвони, дзвонять дзвони,

Дзвонять увесь шлях!

Як весело нам їхати

В однокінних санях 

  1. Rodolfo el reno – Spanish

Rudolph, the red-nose reindeer, you’ll go down in history!

“Era Rodolfo un reno
que tenía la nariz
roja como la grana
con un brillo singular. // Todos sus compañeros
se reían sin parar,
y nuestro buen amigo
triste y solo se quedó. // Pero Navidad llegó
Santa Clos bajó
y a Rodolfo lo eligió
por su singular nariz. // Tirando del trineo
fue Rodolfo sensación,
y desde ese momento
toda burla terminó.”

  1. Noel Blanc – French

Maybe you’ve never seen a White Christmas. Well, you can dream along as you listen to this French version of one of the most popular Christmas songs.

“Oh, quand j’entends chanter Noël
J’aime revoir mes joies d’enfant
Le sapin scintillant, la neige d’argent
Noël, mon beau rêve blanc. // Oh, quand j’entends sonner au ciel
L’heure ou le bon vieillard descend
Je revois tes yeux clairs, Maman
Et je songe d’autres Noëls blancs.”

  1. O Tannenbaum – German

It’s likely that you’ve been singing the words “O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree” for as long as you can remember. Did you know that song originated in Germany where Christmas trees are traditionally brought into the home on Christmas eve and secretly decorated adding to the wonder of Christmas morning.

“O Tannenbaum, o Tannenbaum, wie treu sind deine Blätter!
Du grünst nicht nur zur Sommerzeit, nein, auch im Winter, wenn es schneit.
O Tannenbaum, o Tannenbaum, wie treu sind deine Blätter!”

  1. El Tamborilero – Spanish

Be prepared to have the “pa rum pum pum pum” beat stuck in your head with this Spanish version of “Little Drummer Boy.”

“El camino que lleva a Belén
baja hasta el valle que la nieve cubrió.
Los pastorcillos quieren ver a su Rey,
le traen regalos en su humilde zurrón
al Redentor, al Redentor.”

  1. Joy to the World – English

We come to the end of this list with a classic favorite, “Joy to the World.” Our prayer for you is that you prepare room for Christ in your heart not only during Christmas, but always.

“Joy to the world! The Lord is come. Let earth receive her King. Let ev’ry heart prepare Him room,
And heaven and nature sing,
And heaven and nature sing,
And heaven and heaven and nature sing.”

From all of us at YM360 and Servant Life, we wish you a Christmas full of hope that declares Emmanuel to all of the world!