Celebrating Holiday Traditions With Song!

All over the world people are celebrating this joyous season in so many different ways.  There are beautiful religious ceremonies, family and community activities, decorations, presents, great food.  And then, there’s music.  As a musician and a global traveler, I wanted to share some favorite melodies and music that create holiday magic in various cultures throughout the world.

One song heard in almost three dozen languages around the globe is Jingle Bells. You might be surprised to find out that this song was actually written for Thanksgiving. If you listen to the song carefully, you’ll notice that there isn’t a single reference to Christmas in it!  Instead, an American minister named James Lord Pierpont wrote the song in 1850 about sleigh rides in the snow and performed it at his church in November.  It was such a hit that everyone requested it for Christmas and the song grew in popularity and has since become associated with this special time of year.

Check out this animation of Jingle Bells.  In the video, you can see holiday greetings in 18 different languages from Spanish, French, German and Portuguese to Turkish, Swedish, Romanian and Hawaiian.  Want a closer look at these greetings?  There’s a pdf link below for how to wish someone a merry Christmas or happy holidays in each of these world languages.

Do sleigh bells conjure up the magic of Christmas for you?  In Greece, it’s the sound of a musical triangle instead.  When my husband was young, he participated in Greek caroling and went door to door in Athens singing special songs accompanied by a triangle.  Read more about this lovely tradition here or you can make your own sets of jingling bells, rocking rattles or other instruments to add to your holiday fun by visiting the musical crafts link below.

Caroling In Greece With A Musical Triangle: https://makingmulticulturalmusic.wordpress.com/2011/12/16/christmas-traditions-in-greece-caroling-with-a-musical-triangle-and-much-more/

And how do you say “Merry Christmas” in the Spanish speaking world?  It’s Feliz Navidad and you can hear it here in one of the most popular Christmas songs with lyrics in both Spanish and English. Written by Puerto Rican composer and musician, José Feliciano, this song has made its way around the world over and over again and has a way of bringing holiday cheer – no matter what language you speak!


But let’s not forget the holiday of Hanukkah. Whether you practice the Jewish faith or not, the holiday inspires a sense of miracles, joy and renewal that helps us all make it through the long winter and look forward to new beginnings and a new year. If you want to learn how to play the dreydl (also spelled dreidel) game, you can check out this music video.  Hidden in this simple child’s game is a wonderful message.  Watch the video or read the post below to find out what it is.


And just as Christmas traditions vary from country to country, people also celebrate Hanukkah all around the globe.  However, certain things remain constant and you can see many of them in this Hanukkah video of a song from Spain, such as the custom of gathering with friends, making delicious foods and special sweets, giving presents and lighting the menorah.  The menorah takes center stage in this video that counts out the 8 little candles in the language of Ladino – a mix of Hebrew and Spanish. In fact, if you speak Spanish, you will easily be able to count along to the 8 candles in the chorus of the song.


No matter what holiday you celebrate – this season can bring great joy to your home and your community.  It’s a great time to discover how others celebrate this time of year as well as connect with your own cultural roots and deepen your faith and spiritual understanding of the world.

And as you do – I hope you add a little music to share your holiday joy in song!

-Daria Marmaluk-Hajioannou

Fun Posts and Resources

18 Different Happy Holidays pdf

http://www.dariamusic.com/ docs/Happy Holidays Multi-Language PDF.pdf

Make Your Own Jingle Bells pdf


Musical Crafts


Jingle Bells – All About The Song


The Little Dreydl (Dreidel) Song And Game


Lyric Sheet  – Oh Dreydl (Dreidel)


Lyric sheet – Ocho Candelikas


Lyric Sheet – Feliz Navidad


DARIA’s World Music For Kids website:



5 thoughts on “Celebrating Holiday Traditions With Song!

  1. Pingback: Best Holiday Lesson Plans and Ideas | The Car Family

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