A Very Russian Christmas

Everyone who reads this blog knows of my intense love for all things Russian. What you probably don’t know is my intense love for Christmas music. I’ve been studying Russian for six years now (!) and never once did I think to combine these two things I love. Yes, my friends, get ready for a video-heavy, epic, amazing post: popular Christmas songs in Russian. They do exist, and they are right here on this blog.

First, “Silent Night.” I have a very special relationship with this song. Before I took proper music lessons, I taught myself to play it on a keyboard and enjoyed playing different variations of it as I discovered music on my own. Here’s Ivan Rebroff singing “Silent Night” in Russian. Rebroff wasn’t Russian—he was German, but he loved Russian culture and Russian things the same way I do, so he sang tons of Russian music during his career.

Rebroff also made a beautiful recording of the German song “O Tannenbaum.” The Russian version is just great. Unfortunately, I can’t find a video of this song by itself, so you’ll have to skip ahead in the video to 4:08 or so to hear “O Tannenbaum.”

“O Holy Night” is one of my favorite Christmas songs, but I couldn’t find a decent soloist singing it in Russian. I found this video of a choir in the United States, of all places, singing it in Russian.

In a way, hearing these songs in Russian makes me a bit sad. It makes me think of what could have been in Russia: if the Bolsheviks had not seized power and Russia could have taken a democratic path in the early twentieth century, maybe Christmas would have remained the major winter holiday there. In the days of the Russian Empire, it was—the Soviet government forced the people to be atheists and not celebrate Christmas, but the New Year instead. As far as I know, there isn’t Christmas music on Russian radio stations the way there is in the United States or England. Russian people celebrate the New Year with a tree and presents and even a dude who looks like Santa Claus (except they call him Father Frost), but it’s just not the same thing.