Learn Some Irish Christmas Carols!

Irish Christmas carols and songs

The happy holiday of Christmas is right around the corner!

If you’ve been following this blog, you know that I’m a big advocate of singing as an aid to learning. Why don’t we have some fun and learn a couple of Irish Christmas carols, appropriate to the season?

Three kinds of Irish Christmas Carols

When looking for Christmas or winter songs in Irish, you’re likely to encounter three kinds:

  • Traditional Irish Christmas Carols. These are songs that originated in Ireland, such as Carúl Loch Garman (“The Wexford Carol”) or Don Oíche Úd i mBeithil (“To That Night in Bethlehem”). These songs are usually quite old, and their authorship is unknown.
  • Composed Irish Christmas Carols. These are also songs that originated in Ireland, but they are of more recent composition, and the writer is known. Some examples are Suantraí na Maighdine (“The Virgin’s Lullaby”) by Seán Óg Ó Tuama and Oíche Nollag (“Christmas Eve”) by Mary Mac an tSaoi.
  • Irish versions of European or American Carols. Several familiar European and American Carols and winter songs, such as “Jingle Bells” and Silent Night” have versions in Irish.

Since the latter category is most likely to include tunes that are familiar to you, let’s take a look at a couple of those.

Before learning more about Irish Christmas Carols, would you like to learn how to wish someone a Happy Christmas in Irish Gaelic? Check out the video!

How To Say – Happy Christmas in Irish

“Versions,” not necessarily “translations”

Translating poetry (which is what song lyrics are) in a way that fits the music and the style of the song is one of the most difficult types of translations there is.  Consequently, most Irish versions of familiar carols aren’t direct translations, but rather paraphrases (and, in some cases, as in the first song below, the lyrics are completely different).

Here’s one with a very familiar tune. I’ve given a very rough pronunciation guide under the Irish lyrics (if you have our pronunciation cheat sheets, you might want to pull them out), and a translation below.

Irish Christmas Carol – DAIDÍ NA NOLLAG (FATHER CHRISTMAS)

 

Lyrics by James Pierpoint.  Sung to the tune of “Jingle Bells.”

Curfá (Chorus):

Bualadh bos, bualadh bos, buailfimís go léir,

(BOO-luh boss, BOO-luh boss, BOO-lih-mish guh layr)

Tá Daidí na Nollag ag teacht anocht, anuas an similéar.

(Taw DAD-ee NULL-egg eg chakht uh-NOKHT uh-NOO-uss un SHIM-ih-layr)

Ó, bualadh bos, bualadh bos, buailfimís go léir,

(Oh, BOO-luh boss, BOO-luh boss, BOO-lih-mish guh layr)

Tá Daidí na Nollag ag teacht anocht anuas an similéar.

(Taw DAD-ee NULL-egg eg chakht uh-NOKHT uh-NOO-uss un SHIM-ih-layr)

Verse 1:

Tá’n Nollaig buailte linn; tá áthas insan aer,

(Tawn NULL-egg BOOl-cheh lin, taw AW-huss IN-sun ayr)

Tá sneachta ar an dtalamh; tá réaltaí insan spéir.

(Taw SHNAKH-tuh air un DAL-uv,  taw RAYL-tee IN-sun spayr)

Táimid ag dul a chodladh, is tá ár stocaí réidh.

(TAW-mwij agg dull uh KHUL-uh, iss taw awr STOK-ee ray)

Tá Daidí Nollag ag teacht anocht anuas an similéar.

(Taw DAD-ee NULL-egg eg chakht uh-NOKHT uh-NOO-uss un SHIM-ih-layr)

Verse 2

A Dhaidí, brostaigh ort, is cuir do mhála síos.

(Uh YAD-ee, BROSS-tee ort, iss kur duh WAH-luh sheess)

Líon suas an stoca beag le feiríní arís,

(LEE-un SOO-uss un STOK-uh byug leh FAYR-een-yee uh-REESH)

Is mithid duit imeacht suas an similéar.

(Iss MIH-hij ditch IM-yakht SOO-uss un SHIM-ih-layr)

Tá páistí beaga ag feitheamh ort i ngach aon áit faoin spéir.

(Taw PAW-shtee BYUG-uh egg FEH-hev ort ih ngakh ayn awtch fween spayr.)

 

TRANSLATION

 

FATHER CHRISTMAS*

Chorus:

Clap hands, clap hands, let’s all clap,

Father Christmas is coming down the chimney tonight.

Clap hands, clap hands, let’s all clap,

Father Christmas is coming down the chimney tonight.

Verse 1

Christmas is coming near; there’s joy in the air.

There’s snow on the ground; there are stars in the sky.

We’re going to bed, and our stockings are ready.

Father Christmas is coming down the chimney tonight.

Verse 2

Oh hurry, Father Christmas, and put down your bag.

Fill the little stocking with presents again.

And then you must be going up the chimney.

Little children are waiting for you in every place under the sky.

* “Father Christmas” is what children in Ireland and England call the person Americans know as “Santa Claus.”

Another familiar tune

You’re probably familiar with at least one tune for this next song (many people know two).  It’s a fairly faithful Irish translation of the American carol “Away in a Manger.” The Irish version can be sung to either, tune, but I think it sounds best sung to the tune known as “Cradle Song” (which Americans mistakenly refer to as the “English” tune).

Irish Christmas Carol – SA STÁBLA, SA MHÁINSÉAR (IN THE STABLE, IN THE MANGER)

 

Irish lyrics traditional. Sung to the tune of “Away in a Manger.”

Verse 1
Sa stábla, sa mháinséar, tá naíonán ‘na luí,

(Suh STAW-bluh, suh WAWN-shayr, taw NEE-nawn nuh lee)

An naíonán beag Íosa ‘bhéas fós linn mar rí.

(Uh NEE-nawn byug EE-uh-ssuh vayss fohss lin mar ree.)

Tá réaltaí ag soilsiú go hard insan spéir,

(Taw RAYL-tee egg SOL-shoo guh hard IN-sun spayr,)

Ar an leanbh beag Íosa ina luí sa mháinséar.

(Air un LAN-iv byug EE-uh-ssuh IN-uh lee suh WAWN-shayr.)

Verse 2

Tá ciúnas mór thimpeall; tá draíocht san aer!

(Taw KYOO-nuss mohr HIM-pull, taw DREE-ukht sun air!)

Tá aoibhneas is áthas ar an domhan go léir.

(Taw EEV-nyuss iss AH-huss air un DOH-un guh layr.)

Tá Aingil na bhFlaithis ag síor-mholadh Dé.

(Taw ANG-il nuh VLA-hish egg sheer-WOL-uh Jay)

Ard-mholadh d’Íosa, don leanbh beag glé.

(Ard-WOL-uh d’EE-uh-ssuh, dun LAN-iv byug glay.)

Verse 3
Bí linne, a Íosa; bí linne go deo.

(Bee LIN-yeh, uh EE-uh-ssuh; bee LIN-yeh guh joh.)

Bí linne san oíche; bí linne sa ló.

(Bee LIN-yeh sun EE-hyeh; bee LIN-yeh suh loh.)

Tabhair grá do do pháistí; tabhair grá dúinn go síor.

(Tohr graw duh duh FAHSS-chee; tohr graw DOO-in guh sheer.)

Agus bímis dílis; bímis dílis go fíor.

(AG-uss BEE-mish JEE-lish; BEE-mish JEE-lish guh feer.)

TRANSLATION

 

IN THE STABLE, IN THE MANGER

Verse 1

In the stable, in the manger, an infant is lying,

The little infant Jesus, who is to be our king.

The stars are shining high in the sky

On the little child Jesus lying in the manger.

Verse 2

There’s a great silence all around; there’s magic in the air!

There is bliss and joy throughout the world.

The Heavenly Angels are enternally praising God.

High-praise to Jesus; to the bright little child.

Verse 3

Be with us, O Jesus, be with us forever.

Be with us in the nighttime; be with us in the day.

Love your children; love us eternally.

And we will be faithful; we will be truly faithful.

(Note: You can hear this one sung — and sing along — here.)

That’ll get you singing!

There’s a couple to get you started! On Saturday, we’ll take a look at some traditional Irish carols, with, perhaps, less familiar tunes.

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