A Box of Christmas Readings

From this site and from the wider web…

Y mis y gwelsom Iesu—yn ei grud,
 gwawl gras o’i ddeutu,
Mis gwyn, a mis i ganu
Carolau a chlychau lu.

Mí na Nollag
An mhí go bhfacamar Íosa—ina mhainséar,
Le luisne na ngrás uime,
Mí bheannaithe, mí i gcóir
Canadh na gcarúl is ceiliúradh na gclog go léir.
(Anaithnid: ón Bhreatnais)

The month we saw Jesus—in his manger,
With a glow of grace around him,
A blessed month, a month to sing
Carols and to ring many bells.
(Anonymous: from the Welsh)

J. S. Bach BMV 132

"Bereitet die Wege, bereitet die Bahn / Prepare ye the ways, prepare ye the road!

Part of a cantata for Christmas sung by the soprano Ingrid Schmithüsen with the Bach Collegium Japan.

Merry Christmas in many languages

Greetings from all over the world.

This site includes Irish but not Scottish Gaelic. ‘Happy Christmas!’ in that language so like Irish is, I believe, ‘Nollaig Chridheil!’.

‘Íosagán’ is a term of affection and of endearment in Irish which means something like ‘Little Jesus’. It is also the title of one of the best known and best loved stories in the whole corpus of Irish literature both English and Irish.

It is the first story in Íosagán agus Scéalta Eile (‘Iosagan and Other Stories’), a collection of four short stories in Irish published in 1907 by the Gaelic League.

The stories had been written by Patrick Pearse, a scholar and teacher who was to become better known in due course as the leader of the Easter Rising of 1916.

Patrick Pearse, the son of an English father and an Irish mother, based his stories on his experience of Connemara which he had come to know intimately from his house in Rosmuc.

It is one of the stories by him included in this collection of all ten of his stories in English translations.

It remains one of the most touchingly beautiful Christmas stories to be found anywhere.

‘Jesukin’, a poem about fostering in early Ireland which brings with it the message of Christmas

This is the translation of a very old poem in Irish. The translator uses the word ‘Jesukin’ to translate the original title ‘Iosacan’, which is almost the same as the title of the modern story by Patrick Pearse presented above.


From ‘The Shepherd’s Calendar’.

This poem, possibly the most enchanting descriptions in English of a rural Christmas, was written by John Clare (1793 – 1864). He is one of Northamptonshire’s most widely known and best loved local heroes.

Christmas TV Past
A selection of short video clips from the archives of RTÉ, Ireland’s public broadcasting service.

You may experience problems getting some of the clips to play correctly, with sound and so on.

An Irish Christmas in Australia
A transcript of a joint production by Australia’s ABC channel and Ireland’s RTÉ broadcast on Christmas Day 2006.

Christmas Miscellany
More riches from RTÉ, this time a selection of seasonal broadcasts on RTÉ Radio 1 during December.
Naturally, by clicking on the ‘Christmas Miscellany’ link one gets to hear their very best!
Please note that each of the ‘Miscellany’ programmes begins with news headlines and other announcements...

Christingle – a special kind of Christmas celebration...
In 1968 The Children’s Society introduced Christingle services to The Church of England.

On Wednesday 17 December 2008, during a short visit to friends, I attended the Christingle Service in the Church in Wales church in Whitford, Flintshire. It was the first time I have ever been present during this remarkable way of presenting the Christmas story. The children OF Ysgol y Llan Primary School, whose event it was, were enchanting even – it was a heart‑lifting experience to see the wonder and the joy on their enthusiastic faces...

I have nothing but praise for all concerned. Those schools who have not yet adopted this beautiful way to celebrate Christmas – please copy...

Programme cover...
This scan gives a good idea of the spirit of the event.

The first Christingle service took place in a Moravian church in Germany on the 24th December 1747...

Christingle on YouTube

A Visit on Christmas Eve 1943

A simple but powerful story of how, during their campaign in the Ukraine, a small group of German soldiers were visited by an old lady from the area accompanied by her two small grand chidren.

A Long Walk to Midnight Mass

How, in 1946, a Catholic family from Silesia made a journey of about 90 minutes through pitch dark woods to Midnight Mass in a packed Lutheran Church in Germany.

Midnight Mass for Christmas

From a packed Catholic Church in the USA comes this video showing the first few wonderful moments of a traditional High Mass in Latin.

A un Triunfo tan Feliz
‘To such a Happy Triumph’ is one of the most joyous pieces of celebratory music and song imaginable.
Written and composed in 1789 by Francisco de la Huerta (1733 – 1814), it is performed by the choir and orchestra of the Cathedral of Santa María, Pamplona.
Text in Spanish with a translation into English.

On the evening of Wednesday 14 December 2005, it was my privilege to be at Gaelscoil Uí Chéadaigh in Bray, County Wicklow, Ireland for a celebration of Christmas. There was a choir of infants who sang Christmas songs and carols. I noted two particularly pleasing lines of a song in Irish I did not know at all. Here is my translation:

"The little stars up in the sky
‘Twas He who lit them bright and high... "

I went home in a glow!


Ar nos Fercher 14 Rhagfyr 2005 ces i’r fraint o fod yn bresennol wrth i Gaelscoil Uí Chéadaigh, Bray, Swydd Wicklow, Iwerddon, ddathlu’r Nadolig. Cafowyd côr y babanod i ganu caneuon a charolau’r. Clywais ddwy linell yn arbennig a oedd yn ddymunol iawn mewn un gân yn y Wyddeleg na chlywais i erioed o’r blaen. Dyma fy fersiwn i ohonynt:

"Y sêr bychain yn y nefoedd fry
Y Fe a’u taniodd yn nerth eu bri... "

Fe es i adref o dan gwawl!


Ar oíche Chéadaoine 14 Nollag 2005, bhí sé de phribhléid agam a bheith i láthair ag ceiliúradh na Nollag i nGaelscoil Uí Chéadaigh, Bré, Contae Chill Mhantáin, Éire. Bhí cór speisialta na aíonán ann le amhráin agus carúil na Nollag a chanadh.
Bhí dhá líne thar a bheith aoibhinn in amhrán nár aithin mé. Thug mé aird faoi leith orthu:

"Na réaltaí beagaí ins an aer
Ba É a las iad go soiléir... "

Chuaigh mé abhaile faoi luisne!

St. Francis and the First Crib
First of all, St. Francis of Assisi makes the first crib, Italy’s enchanting gift to all the world....

Christmas Cribs in Italy today

The Crib, the Crèche, the Presepe in Italy

Christmas Gift Held Memories
Newport West MP, Paul Flynn, recalls how his father’s life was saved by a German soldier during WW1.

Band Aid 1984: Do they know it’s Christmas
The words with MIDI accompaniment of the original Band Aid recording of November 1984 in response to the terrible famine in Ethiopia.

Band Aid 20: new version released on November 30 2004

Now the focus is on the Sudan as a new version of ‘Do they know it’s Christmas?’ takes off.

Do we know it’s Christmas?
A challenge to our cosy feelings written by Welsh Baptist minister, the Reverend Denzil John.

The Search is On

Canon Seán Kearney, formerly of St. Mary’s Priory, Merthyr Tydfil, Wales, and now living in retirement in Ireland, takes another look at the Christmas Crib.

No Room at the Inn
The Reverend Denzil John of Cardiff again throws down the Christmas gauntlet.

Death at Christmas
There were precious few carols or Christmas trees in Skibbereen during Ireland’s Great Famine (1845–1849) as this account of a time of utter wretchedness by teacher and local historian Patrick Cleary shows.

Christmas in Ireland Before the Great Famine
A merry Christmas as observed by William Carleton

The Wren Day in Ireland Before the Great Famine
Saint Stephen’s Day as observed by Gerald Griffin.

The Wexford Carol
One of Ireland’s oldest and most widely sung Christmas carols...

To hear it sung click here

Don Oíche úd i mBeithil
‘To that Night in Bethlehem’ is one of the few widely sung Christmas carols in Irish.
Text in Irish and in English.

‘Don Oíche úd i mBeithil’ in the search box...

The story of Adeste Fideles
It was written by Englishman, John Francis Wade (1711–1786).

A simple arrangement for piano
NB: This arrangement by Abel Di Marco is copyright and for home use only.

Adeste Fideles from Venezuela
This is an amazing and utterly enchanting performance by children and young people from Caracas and district.

The inspiring Pied Piper of Venezuela...

A BBC report on the child musicians of Venezuela

Stille Nacht (‘Silent Night’)
Here are the original German words with MIDI accompaniment of the world’s favourite Christmas carol.

The familiar words in English

The Huron Carol
This was the first Christmas carol to be written in Canada. Its author, Father Jean de Brebeuf (1593–1649), was a missionary among the Huron in what was then called ‘New France’. Captured and killed by the Iroquois in March 1649 he was canonised as a martyr in 1930.
His carol was written in Huron. About 100 years passed before it first appeared in French.
A further two centuries were to pass before it was translated into its familiar English version.

A sung version in Huron, French and English.

A Fairy Tale of New York
The words of one of the truly great Christmas songs of the 20th. century.

Christmas Legends and Customs
From an old Catholic magazine published in Cardiff in the 1920s.

Christmas in the Cameroon
A sermon for Christmas 2002 by Christopher Hancock of Cardiff, who was then studying with the Mill Hill Fathers to be a missionary priest. He was ordained in June 2004 at St. Mary of the Angels Church, Canton, Cardiff.

Nollaig (‘Christmas’) in the Scottish Highlands Long Ago
Nineteenth Century traditions in Gaelic Scotland.

Christmas and New Year in Ireland Long Ago
From the booklet, ‘Irish Folk Custom and Belief’, by Seán Ó Súillerabháin.

Christmas in the Galtees in the 1870s

This account by William O’Brien (1852–1928) of an Irish workhouse at Christmas was published in Dublin in 1878.

Curranty Cakes: Christmas in Connemara in the 1920s
A biographical account of Christmas in Irish‑speaking County Galway by Máire Phatch Mhór Uí Churraoin.

In Irish with a translation into English.

Jimeen and the Gander
A delightfully humorous childhood memory of a long distant Christmas Day in County Kerry, Ireland, from Jimín Mháire Thadhg, the classic story of childhood by Pádraig Ó Siocfhradha (1883–1964), better known as ‘An Seabhac’(‘The Hawk’).

In Irish with a translation into English.

Remembrance of Christmas Past
"Then on Christmas Eve the same year I was on night shift but although it was wartime we were to have a break of a couple of days – perhaps it was only one – so I was having at least the Christmas Eve shift off..."
An account of a bittersweet Christmas Eve in wartime Belfast by Samuel H. Boyd, Cwmbran, Wales.

Christmas in the Dingle Peninsula
New York‑based Muiris Ó Bric remembers the enchantment of Christmas Eve during his childhood in County Kerry in the 1950s.

In Irish with a translation into English.

Out for the ‘Cure’
Kerryman Maidhc Dainín Ó Sé was in his late teens while working in London in the 1950s.
This is his story of how he spent one Christmas there.
In Irish with a translation into English.

An Aran Islands Christmas
Welshman Dr. Harri Pritchard‑Jones spent Christmas, 1964, on the Aran Islands in Galway Bay.

In Welsh with a translation into English.

Cuireadh do Mhuire / An Invitation to Mary
The great poet of the Aran Islands, Máirtín Ó Direáin (1910–1988), wrote this short Christmas poem during World War 2.

In Irish with a translation into English.

A Naoidhe Naoimh / O Holy Child
A poem for Christmas by Aodh Mac Aingil (1571–1626), a Franciscan from County Down who died in Rome five months after being appointed Archbishop of Armagh.
The Pope said: “It is an angel, not a man, we have lost.”
This heartfelt and very personal piece is considered to be one of Ireland’s most tender and personal religious poems.

In Irish with a translation into English.

Oíche Nollag / Christmas Eve
A deservedly famous and enchanting poem for Christmas by Máire Mhac an tSaoi.

In Irish with a translation into English.

Christmas Mass during Ireland’s Penal Days
A brief introduction to a painting showing a group of people hearing Mass as dawn breaks on Christmas Day in eighteenth century Ireland. The priest is saying the Mass at a ‘Mass rock’ high up in the snow‑covered hills. As he elevates the consecrated host the lookouts warn of the approach of a group of armed redcoats...

The Holly Tree

This lovely Christmas poem by Tadhg Ua Duinnín is from Sliabh Luachra, Vol 1, No. 8, Gneeveguilla, County Kerry, June 1986.

An Irish Christmas Night

This Christmas poem by Nancy Kelleher recalling Christmas Eve in Ireland long ago is from an undated copy of Contact, a community magazine published every year at Christmas in Rusheen, Coachford, County Cork.

A Country Christmas

The book, To School through the Fields, by Alice Taylor has sold more copies than any title in Irish publishing history. She ends this wonderful book with her memories of Christmas in County Cork in the 1940s.

The Wiree’s Song

“The Wiree sang that Christmas Day...” in the golden sun of an Australian summer more than a hundred years ago as famously and poignantly remembered in verse by ‘John O’Brien’ (i.e.: Fr. Joseph Hartigan, 1878–1952) in his classic collection,
Around the Boree Log.


A more humourous poem for Christmas from Around the Boree Log.

Christmas Shopping

Louis MacNeice (1907–1963), a fine poet from Belfast, was not all that impressed with the empty frenzy of an increasingly materialistic Christmas.

Journey of the Magi
An imaginative and stirring poetic account of a famous Christmas journey written by another Belfast poet, W.R.Rodgers (1909–1969).

Compare this with the more famous account of the same journey by T.S.Eliot.

A Childhood Christmas
A child’s Christmas in Ireland as remembered in unforgettable verses by poet Patrick Kavanagh (1904–1967).

To hear it read click here

Christmas Mummers in County Fermanagh
In the divided world of Northern Ireland the Christmas Mummers knocked on every door...

The Wonderful Christmas Soup

Broadcaster, song writer and singer Frank Hennessy of Cardiff, Wales, had a most peculiar and unnerving experience with soup in Cork City, Ireland, one Christmas Eve in the 1960s.

Christmas with the Kellys

Some years ago Paddy Murphy of Cardiff went to Australia for Christmas.
Instead of heading for Bondi Beach he decided to look up Ned Kelly and the other members of that famous family of outlaws...

The Christmas Eisteddfod

The late Tom MacDonald tells how he, the Welsh‑born son of Irish tinkers who had found a permanent home in a rural village in Carmarthenshire before the First World War, won the medal for a recitation in Welsh at a chapel eisteddfod during the Christmas season.

A Light Christmas

Freelance Catholic journalist, the late John O’Sullivan, describes Christmas in Cardiff, Wales, in the 1890s.

Bees and Carols

David Delta Evans, whose mother was born in 1833, describes some of the old Christmas customs of
Welsh‑speaking Wales.
In Welsh with a translation into English.

Making Toffee on Christmas Eve

Another old custom long vanished from rural Wales as recalled by Evan Isaac.

In Welsh with translations into Irish and English.

Singing Carols
Carol singing in Llanrwst and district in the 1870s as recalled by John Lloyd Williams (1854‑1945).

In Welsh with translations into Irish and English.

Ar Gyfer Heddiw’r Bore
This great song, composed in the 19th century, is one of the most celebrated of the Christmas carols of Wales.

In Welsh with translations into English and Irish.

Colomennod mewn Dinas ar Drothwy’r Nadolig

Cerdd gan y Prifardd, Alan Llwyd, am yr hen golomennod ‘na sydd wedi bod yn annwyl i mi ers i fy niweddar fam ddangos i mi pa mor fawr oedd ei chariad hi tua chreaduriaid, yn enwedig yr adar mân.

A poem by award‑winning poet Alan Llwyd about the pigeons of Cardiff as they beggar their way through the indifferent, hurrying feet of Christmas shoppers.
In Welsh with a translation into English.

Y Nadolig / The Christmas / An Nollaig

A four line stanza in Welsh written by ‘Hedd Wyn’ (1887 – 1917), one of the most remarkable poets of the early twentieth century.

In Welsh with translations into English and Irish.

A Christmas Revel
A poet’s Christmas in 14th. century Wales.

Who said Dickens invented Christmas! Who said the Irish invented hospitality!
In Welsh, with a translation by New Yorker J.P.Clancy, of an account in verse of a splendid Christmas party in 14th century Wales.

The True Christmas

A Christmas sermon in verse by 17th. century Welsh poet Henry Vaughan (1621–1695).

Short, theological, laconic: the late and great R.S.Thomas (1913–2000) at his enigmatic best.

Email to L.G. and Friends: December 22, 1998
The sender of this message to friends in Bucharest, David Reid, was born in Hartlepool in February 1949 and died in New York on January 10, 2003. He is buried in Cardiff, the city which was his adopted home for over 30 years.

His ‘Email’ was in fact a poem in which he considered the bleak realities of Christmas in the brave new world of the late twentieth century.

Christmas at Sea

A fine narrative poem by Robert Louis Stevenson (1850–1894), the famous Scottish author of Treasure Island

Innocent’s Song

Not many have anything interesting to say about Herod but the late Cornish poet,Charles Causeley (1917–2003), one of the best writers of poetry for children, does manage to present the infamous monarch in a fascinating way.

I Sing of a Maiden

This anonymous Christmas gem from 14th century England must be one of the lovliest tributes to Mary in any language.

One of the most remarkable of English poets, the farm worker John Clare (1793–1864), gives a warm and vivid account of a Dickensian Christmas before Dickens.

The Journey of the Magi

One of the most famous poems by the great Anglo‑American writer, T.S.Eliot (1888–1965).

Compare this with the less well‑known poem on the same theme by Belfast poet, W.R.Rogers.


This poem by John Betjeman (1906–1984) memorably mixes the tinsel with the theology.

The Oxen
This bitter‑sweet poem for Christmas by Thomas Hardy (1840–1928) reflects the uniquely poignant longing of so many people who want to but just cannot believe.

The Night Before Christmas.

One the evergreen Christmas favourites, it was written by New Yorker Clement Clarke Moore (1779–1863).

Now Thrice Welcome Christmas

The Christmas card English Christmas as imagined by an anonymous village poet intimes gone by.

The celebrated and often quoted Christmas poem by Sir Walter Scott (1771—1832).

Heaven Cannot Hold him

This is the poem by Christina Rossetti (1830–1894) which is better known as the Christmas carol, In the Bleak Midwinter.

The Burning Babe.

A short Christmas poem by Father (now Saint) Robert Southwell, S.J. (1561–1595).

On the Morning of Christ’s Nativity
A celebratory ode by the great 17th century poet, John Milton (1608–1674).

Christmas Bells

A poem in celebration of Christmas by the great American writer, H.W.Longfellow (1807–1882) which challenges the martial spirit of his world and of ours.

The Gift of the Magi

This, one of the most anthologised of American short stories, was written by the much loved writer O. Henry (1862–1910).

Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus

This was the heading above an editorial in the New York Sun in 1897. It was written by a journalist, Francis P. Church, in reply to a worried letter to that paper written by a young girl. It was to become one of the most famous editorials ever written.

Midnight Mass, New Mexico, 1809
From the novel, The Saintmaker’s Christmas Eve, by the late Irish‑American writer, Paul Horgan (1903–1995).

A Fire for Christmas Eve in Andalusia

A short extract from the classic book Platero y Yo (‘Platero and I’) by the Spanish writer, Juan Ramón Jiménez (1881–1958), who was awarded the Nobel prize for Literature in 1956.

In Spanish with a translation into English.

La Nochebuena en el País Vasco se hace mucho tiempo atrás podía estar muy muy espantoso...

Christmas Eve in the Basque Country long ago could be really really scary...

In Spanish with a translation into English.

Hans Christian Andersen (1805–1875) , the great Danish writer, is one of the creators of our idea of Christmas as the following four stories illustrate:

The Little Match Seller
The Snow Man
The Fir Tree
The Cripple

The White Chapel

This tale, which opens in a Christmas dreamtime but ends in stark tragedy, tells of a child’s Christmas in 19th. century France. It was written by the critic and dramatist, Jules Lemaitre (1853–1914).

I have been unable to trace the original text in French.

The Third Low Mass

A droll Christmas story by French writer Alphonse Daudet (1840–1897)is set in medieval Provence.
In French with a translation into English.

The Day before Christmas

It is Christmas Eve in a harsh prison camp in Bulgaria during the Cold War but the Baptist pastor, Haralan Popov, is surprised by joy.

Sankt Nikolaus und die Rheinlander
Saint Nicholas and the Rhinelanders.

By Anton Friedrich (published 1914)

In German with a translation into English.

Weihnachten / Christmas
A remarkable short poem by Joseph Freiherr von Eichendorff (1788 – 1857)
In German with a translation into English.

Der Christbaum ist der Schönste Baum
The Christ Tree is the Fairest Tree by Johannes Karl (? – 1887)

In German with a translation into English.

A Christmas Eve in Austria

Austrian Catholic writer Peter Rosseger (1843–1918), then the 12 year‑old son of a struggling charcoal burner, did the Christmas shopping on a snowy Christmas Eve in the mid 1850s...
In German with a translation into English.

My Greetings, O Heavenly Child!

This short piece, a Christmas Eve meditation about his dead mother, is another deeply felt contribution by Peter Rosegger.
In German with a translation into English.

A Child’s Christmas in East Prussia
This account of an almost unbelievably enchanting Christmas in the 1890s is from his autobiography, Wälder und Menschen (‘Forests and People’), by Ernst Wiechert (1887–1950).
When he was imprisoned by the Nazis for almost two years he lost the Lutheran faith that surrounded and formed him in childhood and that had survived his experiences as a soldier during World War 1.

In German with a translation into English.

The Christmas Tree

This account of how a young child experienced Christmas in Russia is from the book, Nikita’s Childhood, by Alexei Tolstoy (1883–1945).

Christmas 1948 in Glencree, Ireland
A German child, a refugee from a devastated land, discovers an oasis of welcome among the Wicklow mountains high...

In German and in English.

Christmas 1914 in a world at war...

It was Christmas Eve and the largely Christian armies of Austria, Britain, France, Germany and Russia were engaged in deadly warfare.

No one would have been surprised if the birthday of the Prince of Peace had been completely ignored on all sides.

Yet, against all the possible odds, a kind of miracle happened on the western front where British, German and French frontline troops declared a truce and celebrated the great festival with a brief period of decency, harmony and humanity that would not be seen again during that most terrible of wars.

Joyeaux Noël / Merry Christmas
This is a feature film released just before Christmas 2005 that recreates that unique episode.
"...it marks an ambitious and assured step forward for French director Christian Carion, following his more modest debut picture, ‘A Girl from Paris’" (The Irish Times, 16 December 2005, which awarded it a rare five stars rating).

Truce in the Forest

It is December the 24th, 1944. In the middle of the ferocious Battle of the Bulge three American soldiers find themselves cut off behind enemy lines.
They are spotted by four German soldiers who open fire.

One American is seriously wounded but somehow they manage to get away.

They find a small house and are admitted by a woman and her young teenage daughter.

Later the four Germans knock at the same door and ask if they could stay for the night.

How the mother persuades the mortal enemies to declare a Christmas truce makes a gripping and heartwarming story as portrayed in this 40 minute film.

This film was available from visionvideo.com until late 2005 in VHS format. Unfortunately, it is no longer listed in their catalogue.

The original story of 'Truce in the Forest'

Miracle at Moreau
In Vichy France as World War Two rages it is almost Christmas. A group of children and teenagers are being cared for by nuns in a convent on the slopes of the Pyrenees.

The local SS commandant is trying to close the escape routes used by those trying to escape their dreaded clutches into neutral Spain.

Three Jewish youngsters elude the Nazis and succeed in getting into the convent where they receive shelter.

Using the ruse of a Nativity play in which all of the children, including the Jewish refugees, take part and with the unexpected help of a kindly German NCO, the three Jewish children succeed in reaching safety...

A nailbiting and heartwarming film for Christmas.

To close: Two Christmas carols from Germany

Recorded in Leipzig’s famous Thomaskirche, the thirteenth century church made famous by its greatest choirmaster, Johann Sebastian Bach.

You do not need any German to enjoy this lovely recording...

Cyfieithiadau / aistriúchaín / translations: Barry Tobin.