A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Eastern Christmas Music in Several Languages

As we count down to Christmas, it's one thing to listen to Fairuz singing Jingle Bells or Silent Night in Arabic. Those are in Arabic by a great Arab vocalist, but they are Western carols. Christmas is not, however — whatever WalMart may think — a Western invention. Bethlehem is in Palestine, not Europe. Western Christians and the West generally tend to be ignorant of and uninterested in the Eastern Christian traditions. But these are ancient and rich. First, a Byzantine nativity chant in Arabic:

From the tradition of the Church of the East (the Christian tradition that evolved outside the Roman Empire, and is often labeled "Nestorian" by Westerners, though the Chaldeans are Catholics now), a Chaldean Christmas chant in, I presume, Eastern Aramaic (Aramaic being, as Aramaic speakers usually tell you in the first 30 seconds, the language Jesus spoke)*:

And lest Western Aramaic be neglected, a rousing Christmas song in Syriac:

Or for a more liturgical and reverent Syriac hymn ("Suryoyo" is Syriac for Syriac):

For a faster tempo, some Armenian Christmas songs and dances, complete with both the nativity scene and dancing Santa Clauses (no, really):

* And if modern Aramaic interests you, by all means see this article in the Sunday Washington Post travel section on the Syrian town of Ma‘alula. I never got to visit it.

(The Copts aren't represented but as an old Egypt hand I promise they'll have their own Christmas moment.) I'll have more. As I've noted previously, in the Middle East, you get three Christmases in a row.

Sometimes, YouTube does all the work anyway.

1 comment:

Aramaic Scholar said...

It is really exciting and moving to hear these Aramaic hymns, knowing Aramaic is still a living language today. All Bible students around the world should return to the Aramaic roots of the New Testament, for a more authentic and Bible-based faith.