THE BEST CATALAN CHRISTMAS CAROLS
I love Christmas Carols. We sang them in school when I was a child, and my parents bought me a book with tradition Christmas songs so I could learn and sing more of them. And while there are some Christmas carols in Spanish that I like, my favorite have always been the ones in Catalan: there’s such a variety! Some of them are really sweet and peaceful, other have very poetic words, some other are cheerful and fun, some have a humorous touch, and some are lovely translations of international and well-known carols from all over the world that have however become an ingrained part of our own Christmas tradition.
So let’s celebrate together the Holy Season, but the Catalan way. Today I want to share with you my favorite Catalan Christmas songs and the stories behind them. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do. Merry Christmas!
These are our favorite Christmas songs in Catalan:
Songs about Jesus, Joseph and Mary
El cant dels ocells
But if there is one Catalan Christmas carol that has reached an international level, this is definitely it. This song talking about the joy of nature in front of the birth of Jesus and how the birds celebrated it was chosen by the famous cello player Pau Casals to be played in his international concerts as a way to express his Catalan origin and catalanist feelings as opposed to the repression that our culture was suffering during during the dictatorship of Franco. After the musician played it during a conference in the UN titled “I am Catalan”, the song became a cultural symbol of Catalonia. He also played it during the Presidential Inauguration of JF Kennedy. You can see Pau Casals playing it here.
Songs about shepherds
Fum, fum, fum (El 25 de desembre)
AND BONUS! Are you curious to see how irreverent Catalan Christmas carols can get to be? Learn more about the dark side of Fum Fum Fum:
(DISCLAIMER: If you are very devoted and are likely to be offended by not very respectful words do not continue reading).
Cançons de les Mentides
In the central part of Fum Fum Fum, the words start going a bit wilder, with even the mention of a very sexually active shepherd – although it is said in a quite archaic language that most current Catalan speakers will have trouble identifying correctly). So what’s that about? The answer comes in the phrase “Qui dirà més gran mentida”, that takes us back to the Cançons de les Mentides (Songs of Lies) that were typically improvised in informal gatherings in the old times, and that would be mocking relevant characters of the local community by making up ridiculous stories about them (hence, the shepherd story).
If we are to believe that, then “Fum” wouldn’t be about smoke, but it’d come from the verb “fotre”, that translates into English with another F-word. OMG! How can that be true in a Christmas carol for kids? Well… mockery and scatology are very present in the Catalan culture (have you heard of the pooping man in our nativities and the Pooping Log that brings presents to our kids?). But enough of being irreverent! Fortunately, the mockery in Fum Fum Fum, as I mentioned before, is not as easy to detect (most kids and even adults won’t get it) and the current words of this Carol sing mostly nowadays about Christmas scenes.
Had you ever heard before Christmas music from Catalonia?
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