In my last post — Irish Christmas Carols – Part 1 — I gave you a couple of Irish Christmas/winter songs based on the familiar American carols “Jingle Bells” and “Away in a Manger.”
In this post, we’ll look at a couple of traditional Irish Christmas carols: songs that are native to Ireland, and that were originally written in Irish.
Less familiar tunes
The only problem with teaching traditional Irish carols through the medium of a blog post is that, unless you’re already a fan of Irish Christmas music, the tunes may be less familiar to you.
With that in mind, I’ll post links to good performances of both songs, so you can put the words and music together. Keep in mind that the singers may use a different dialect than you’re learning, so some words may not sound quite as you expect. Feel free to substitute the pronunciation that is more familiar to you.
A note on phonetics
While I do offer a rough pronunciation for each song, remember that English phonetics can only give you a very, very basic guideline. There are sounds in Irish that don’t exist in English. In addition, my dialect of English may be different from yours. Whenever possible, find a recording of a native speaker, or at least a very fluent speaker, to emulate.
In the meantime, for further guidance, you might want to check out our handy Pronunciation Cheat Sheets!
Oh, do you want to learn how to say Happy Christmas in Irish Gaelic? Check out the following video!
How to say – Happy Christmas in Irish
Now, onto the songs!
Irish Christmas carol – A Leanbh Ghil Mhilis
This is, hands down, my favorite Christmas song in Irish. While you’re learning it, you may want to listen to this lovely recording from the group Dordán. The singer is from Connemara, and pronounces things a bit differently than I do, but her enunciation is very clear, so you should be able to pick up on the differences easily.
A LEANBH GHIL MHILIS (O SWEET BRIGHT CHILD)
A leanbh ghil mhilis do tháinig ón bhflaitheas anuas,
(uh LAN-uv yil VIL-ish duh HAW-nig own VLA-huss uh-NOO-uss)
Chun scéala dea-mhéin is siochána ón neamh do bhreith thú,
(Khun SKAY-luh jaw-vayn iss SHEE-khaw-nuh own nyow duh vreh hoo)
Nach mór é an t-ionadh le rá thú id’ luí insan bhfuacht,
(Nokh mohr ay un TEE-noo leh raw hoo id lee IN-sun VOO-ukht)
Is gur tusa, a Shlánaitheoir ghrámhar, tiarna na gcumhacht.
(Iss gur TUSS-uh, uh HLAN-uh-hohr GHRAW-wur, CHEER-nuh nuh GOO-ukht)
Féach orainn, muintir na hÉireann, ag teacht os do chomhair,
(FAY-ukh OR-un, MWIN-chir nuh HAY-run, egg chakht oss duh KHOW-er,)
Mar thángamar aingil is aoirí an oíche úd fadó.
(Mar HAWNG-uh-mar AYN-gil iss EE-ree un EE-hyuh ood fah-DOH)
Ó molaimid d’ainm ró-naofa, a Dhia na Slua,
(Oh MUL-uh-mwij DAN-yim roh-NAY-fuh, uh YEE-uh nuh SLOO-uh)
Agus beirimid leatsa ár mbuíochas anois is go deo.
(AG-uss BAYR-ih-mwij LAT-suh awr MWEE-uh-khuss uh-NISH iss guh joh.)
Go bhfóire tú orainn, a Íosa, a thug dóchas don tsaol,
(Guh VOHR-eh too OR-in, uh EE-uss-uh, hug DOH-khuss dun teel,)
Impímid go humhal ort ár muintir do chosaint ar bhaol.
(Im-PEE-mwihj guh HOO-ul ort awr MWIN-chir duh KHOSS-inch air wayl.)
Déan ainsprid na deighilte do dhíbirt amach uainn i gcéin,
(Jan AN-sprij nuh JY-il-cheh duh YEE-birch uh-MAK OO-in ih gayn,)
Is is géar go mbeidh áitreabh ár sinsear faoi rath is faoi réir.
(Iss iss gyar guh may AW-triv awr SIN-shur fwee raw iss fwee rayr).
Here’s a rough translation of the song:
Irish Christmas carol – O SWEET, BRIGHT CHILD
O sweet, bright child who came down from the heavens,
To bring the news of goodwill and peace you were born.
Isn’t it a wonder to speak of you lying in the cold?
And you, O gracious savior, who is the Lord of Power.
Look upon us, the people of Ireland, coming to stand before you,
As came angels and shepherds on that night long ago.
Oh we will praise your most holy name, O God of Hosts,
And give you our thanks now and forever.
May you protect us, O Jesus, who gave hope to the world.
We humbly implore you to protect our people from danger.
The evil spirit of division banish far from us,
And soon the abode of our ancestors will prosper and be at your command.
Irish Christmas carol – Don Oíche Úd i mBeithil
The tune for this one is a little bit better known, as it’s often found on so-called “Celtic Christmas” compilations. In case you’ve heard and liked it, here are the words, so you can sing along!
If you’ve never heard it before, or just want someone to sing with, here’s a good recording by Altan. They’re Ulster speakers, so adjust your pronunciation accordingly. Note: The singer repeats the first verse at the end of the song.
DON OÍCHE ÚD I mBEITHIL (TO THAT NIGHT IN BETHLEHEM)
Don oíche úd i mBeithil, beidh tagairt faoi ghrian go brách,*
(Dun EE-hyeh ood i MEH-hil, bay TAG-irtch fwee GREE-un guh brawkh,)
Don oíche úd i mBeithil, nuair a tháinig an briathar slán.
(Dun EE-hyeh ood i MEH-hil, NOO-ir THAW-nig un BREE-uh-hur slawn.)
Tá gríosghrua ar spéartha ‘s an talamh ‘na chlúdach bán.
(Taw GREE-uss-GHROO-uh air SPAYR-huh ssun TAL-uv nuh KHLOO-dukh bawn.)
Féach Iosagán sa cléibhín, ‘s an Mhaighdean a dhiúl le grá.
(FAY-ukh EE-ssuh-gon suh KHLAY-veenss un WY-jin uh yool leh graw)
Ar leacain lom an tsléibhe go nglacann na haoirí scóth,
(Air LAK-in lum un CHLAY-veh gung LAK-un nuh HEE-ree scaw,)
Ar oscailt geal na spéire, tá teachtaire Dé ar fáil.
(Air AHSS-kultch yil nuh SPAY-reh, taw CHAKH-tuh-reh Jay air fahl.)
“Céad glóir’ anois don Athair, sna flaithis thuas go hard,
(Kayd glohr uh-NISH dun AH-hir, snuh VLA-hish HOO-uss guh hard,)
Is feasta fós ar talamh, d’fhearaibh dea-mhéin’ siocháin.”
(Iss FAST-uh fohss air TA-luv, JAR-iv jah-VAYN SHEE-uh-khan.)
* The singer actually says “go deo” (guh joh) here. Both “go deo” and “go brách” mean “forever,” but “go brách” is usually favored in this song because it’s assonant with “slán”).
Here’s a rough translation:
Irish Christmas carol – TO THAT NIGHT IN BETHLEHEM
To that night in Bethlehem, there will ever under the sun be allusion.
To that night in Bethelehem, when came the saving word.
There’s a hot glow in the sky, and the earth is covered in white.
See little Jesus at her breast, and the virgin lovingly nursing him.
On the bare sides of the mountains the shepherds take shelter,
At the bright opening of the heavens, God’s messenger is found.
“Great glory now to the Father in the highest heaven,
And hereafter on the earth will men be disposed to goodwill and peace.”
Coming up next!
Tune in tomorrow to learn some Irish words, phrases, and greetings for the season!
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Did you like the above Irish Christmas carols? Let us know your thoughts below!