Famous “Carol of the Bells” is loved by many people in the world.
A lot of Americans think that it’s a popular American Christmas carol. I understand. When something is around for good amount of time, we tend to think that it’s been there forever. A lot of American people grew up singing this carol in Junior High and High School Choirs. This beautiful song brings a lot of joyful memories to most of them. When I told my husband that originally this is a Ukrainian song, he said, “No way, this is my all time favorite Christmas Carol, I sang it in High School choir. I always thought it was our (American) song”.
Originally this song was an ancient Ukrainian pagan magical chant, called “Shchedryk”, people used to sing it for New Year. “Shchedryk” goes back to the times of Kievan Rus’ (9th to the mid 13th century), a medieval Slavic state that was the forerunner of modern Russia; with capital in Kiev (one of the oldest cities of Eastern Europe, now capital of Ukraine).
Around 1901-1902 Ukrainian composer Mykola Leontovych did his first remake on this chant. The final one was in 1919. Ukrainian National Chorus performed and sang it in Europe and the USA. American audience heard it first time on October 5, 1921 in Carnegie Hall. People loved it! It inspired one American popular composer Peter Wilhousky to write an English text to this carol. In 1930s, now well known “Carol of the Bells” for the first time saw the world, and the world loved what it heard.
Click on these two You Tube links to enjoy this beautiful Christmas Carol, even though Christmas is so far away. Close your eyes, listen, and smile…
Carol of the Bells in English,
and in Ukrainian Ukrainian “Shchedryk” .