Is there such thing as Islamic Caroling?
December 23, 2009 4:43 PM   Subscribe

What non-Christian religions and cultures have traditions comparable to Christmas carols and caroling?

I'm looking for holiday traditions in which everyone sings along. Bonus points for anything Muslim.

This is a general question, but what brought it up is that an adult education class a friend teaches sings Christmas carols as an optional, after-class activity. Some of the students are Muslim or Black Muslim and they either come along for the fun or just don't stay for the carols.
posted by small_ruminant to Society & Culture (11 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I see you have never been pinned to a seder table while the family sings every Passover song in the Haggadah. We did that every year when my mom, who loved each and every one of the songs, was alive.
posted by bearwife at 4:57 PM on December 23, 2009 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Y Fari Lwyd: revellers travel around with a decorated horse skull, arrive outside someone's door and sing some Welsh songs, 'then comes a battle of wits (known as pwnco) in which the people inside the door and the Mari party outside exchange challenges and insults in rhyme'. It's a mischievous call-and-response - if the people outside the house run out of things to sing about, they have to clear off to the next house. If those inside get tongue-tied and lose out, the revellers burst into the house and drink all their booze.
posted by Beautiful Screaming Lady at 5:04 PM on December 23, 2009 [4 favorites]

I'm looking for holiday traditions in which everyone sings along.

The Japanese do that community dancing thing in the summer, with songs.
posted by tad at 6:01 PM on December 23, 2009

^ jeez that doesn't answer your question at all, apologies.
posted by tad at 6:02 PM on December 23, 2009

Muslims do not really have a concept of caroling. The difficult thing is, Islam is such an expansive religion covering so many different countries, cultures, and languages, that while music and song is certainly found all over the Muslim world (in some form or another), there really aren't any common "songs" that cut across all the "types" of religious expression by Muslims and all the different regions of the world they come from. It is very much region-specific, or concerned with certain belief threads within greater Islam.

The only common "singing" are of suras - or chapters - of the Quran. Most Muslims can recite several suras by heart, as they also make up prayer formats Islam. Though, suras aren't really "sung" - they're more often described as "recited" - like this. Suras are often chanted, recited, or "sung" at religious gatherings. There are even sura and Quran recitation competitions!

Here's the wiki on Islamic music.

Anyway. Does your friend who teaches the adult education class feel like the Muslims feel "left out?" Has she asked them if there is anything they could bring and share from their own (cultural, community, ethnic) background? It's nice of her to consider the backgrounds of other students in the class! But they may very well just not be interested in participating, since it caroling, have much to do with their background and they may not just feel that it's relevant, particularly since it's optional - though she can ask them to find out more. Good luck!
posted by raztaj at 6:08 PM on December 23, 2009 [2 favorites]

I'm looking for holiday traditions in which everyone sings along.

Latvians sing a lot of specific festival songs together at Jani ("St John's Day" - an old pagan festival with a Christian name). It's the winter solstice & probably the most important festival in the calendar.
posted by UbuRoivas at 7:30 PM on December 23, 2009

Buddhists chant along. Not for Christmas, of course, but for Buddhist holidays. I'm not sure if that counts or not.
posted by mendel at 9:11 PM on December 23, 2009

then comes a battle of wits (known as pwnco)
Don't tell me that the losers are considered to be "pwned".
posted by hattifattener at 11:50 PM on December 23, 2009

Ummm, I've got some carols that have been adapted to be seasonal and non-religious, would that help? Hopefully they wouldn't be objectionable to anyone, is that what you're going for?

They're actually adaptions of neopagan winter solstice adaptions of Christmas carols, which probably wouldn't sound any better to many Muslims, but er, I'll just paste them in so you can decide for yourself.

'Bless ye merry Gentlefolk', to the tune of "God rest ye merry, gentlemen"

Bless ye merry gentle folk,
Let nothing you dismay.
Remember that the Sun returns
Upon the Solstice day!

The growing dark is ended now,
And Spring is on it's way.
O, tidings of comfort and joy,
Comfort and joy!
O, tidings of comfort and joy.

The Winter's worst still lies ahead,
Fierce tempest, snow and rain!
Beneath the freezing of the ground,
The spark of life remains.

The Sun's warm rays caress the seeds,
To raise life's songs again!
O, tidings of comfort and joy,
Comfort and joy!
O, tidings of comfort and joy.

Within the sleeping trees shall rise
The orchards fresh and green.
The Earth shall blossom once again,
The air be sweet and clean!

O, tidings of comfort and joy,
Comfort and joy!
O, tidings of comfort and joy.

Deck the Halls with Boughs of Holly has no religious lyrics.
'O Tannenbaum' is the older version of 'O Christmas Tree' and has no religious lyrics if you replace Tannenbaum with a literal translation, 'Evergreen'.

Glory to the Dawning Sun, to the tune of "Glory to the New Born King"

Brothers, sisters, come to bring
Voices raising up to sing!
Gardens peaceful, forests wild
Hoping for a Winter mild!
Now the time of glowing starts!
Joyful hands and joyful hearts!
Cheer the fire as it burns!
And once again the Sun returns!
Brothers, sisters, come to bring
Voices raising up to sing!

Brothers, sisters, singing come
Glory to the dawning Sun
Through the wind and dark of night
Celebrate the coming light.
Suns glad rays through fear's cold burns
from chill to heat the year now turns
Gather round the fire and tree
Celebrate Life's mystery
Brothers, sisters, singing come
Glory to the dawning Sun.

Silent Night, Solstice Night
Tune: Silent Night, Holy Night

Silent night, Solstice night
All is calm, all is bright
Nature slumbers in forest and glen
Till in Springtime it wakes again
Sleeping dreams grow strong
Sleeping dreams grow strong.

(Was Sleeping spirits grow strong - anyone got better meter?)

Silent night, Solstice night
Silver moon shining bright
Quiet lies the slumbering Earth
Fires welcome the Sun's rebirth
Hark, the Light is redawned
Hark, the Light is redawned

Silent night, Solstice night
Quiet rest till the light
Turning ever the year's Wheel
Brings the Winter to comfort and heal
Rest your spirit in peace
Rest your spirit in peace.

Several of these were originally adapted by Ellen Read, I've adapted all of them.

posted by Elysum at 7:01 AM on December 24, 2009

Response by poster: Thank you everyone! I'm marking the Welsh one as best answer because that's closest to what I was looking for but thank you for all this information- I didn't know any of it.
posted by small_ruminant at 10:48 PM on December 24, 2009

Oh yeah, and it was a largely pre-christian European tradition. The carolling, bonfires, evergreens, tree - very little to do with Christianity.
posted by Elysum at 11:49 PM on December 25, 2009

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