French Christmas Songs | classic music
Although many Christmas songs (‘Les carols du Noel) that we know in English have been translated into French – some French children even think so Christmas bells It was originally a French song – France has many Christmas carols and songs of its own.
Here are eight of our favourites.
The best French Christmas songs
“Petit Papa Noël” (“Little Father Christmas”)
This song was made famous by the French singer Tino Rossi, who performed it in the film Richard Boutier Destin The year is 1946. The original lyrics—by Xavier Lermercier—describe a young boy’s prayer to Father Christmas asking for his father, who was a prisoner of war in Germany, to come home.
But the lyricist Raymond Vinci later rewrote it, conveying every allusion to war. Since then, it has become possibly France’s most popular secular hymn, sung by children across the country.
‘C’est Noël’ (‘It’s Christmas)
Composer Henri Paty allegedly wrote this touching and comforting song for the first Christmas he spent with his infant daughter in 1950. Switching between a modern celebration of Christmas and a retelling of the nativity, it was meant to be one of four songs sung by French actor and singer Fernandel in the 1956 film Honoré de Marseille. But it was cut in editing, and eventually only appeared on a recording released that same year.
“Entre le boeuf et l’âne gris” (“Between the Bull and the Gray Donkey”)
Dating at least to the 16th, and possibly the 13th century, “Entre le boeuf et l’âne gris” (“Between the bull and the gray donkey”) is one of the oldest French hymns still sung today. Simple yet beautiful, the lyrics refer to the animals surrounding Jesus’ manger, which, according to folktales, would have warmed the newborn
“La Noël de la Rue” (“Christmas in the Street”)
Legendary singer Edith Piaf, whose life was marred by illness, injury, frustrated love, and addiction, wasn’t known for writing Christmas songs. And this rare example, recorded in 1951, doesn’t exactly offer festive cheer: “The light and joy behind the windows,” listen to the lyrics, “It’s not for you, not for me. It’s for your neighbor. But it’s beautifully moving.”
5. “Noël à Paris” (“Christmas in Paris”)
Charles Aznavour, the famous French-Armenian singer descended from Czar Nicholas II’s cook, sang this Christmas song on his 1978 album Un enfant est né (A Child is Born). His warm, gritty voice – not for nothing was he often described as French Frank Sinatra – was a perfect fit for it.
“Il est né le divin enfant” (“The Divine Infant is Born”)
These famous Catholic hymns are about the birth of Jesus and the 4,000-year wait for the event as predicted by the prophets. It was first published in 1874 and has since been interpreted many times by artists including Edith Piaf, Annie Lennox, and Placido Domingo.
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“Noël au bout du monde” (“Christmas at the End of the World”)
This charming children’s song is one of many written by the late French singer-songwriter Anne Silvestre, who appeared several times on the French TV show Discorama in the 1960s. It tells of people around the world who celebrate Christmas in their own way, with a special shout out to those who put tinsel on their banana trees.
8. ‘O Come, Divine Messiah’
The melody of this French Christmas song is taken from Laissez paître vos bestes (“Let your animals graze”), and it’s number 16The tenth French Horn Christmas Carol. However, in this version, the original lyrics have been changed with all references to heaven and hell removed to conform to the progressiveness.
picture: Roman Ezel
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