Monday, December 28, 2009

Songs, Snow, and Sparkles: A Search for Silly French Christmas Carols

While Griffin's collection of French CDs and DVDs continues to grow (thanks to Ebay,, and generous friends), we have very few examples of French Christmas music. Two CDs, in fact. One of them consists of songs annoyingly presented in both French and English, leading to contorted translations set to (mostly) cheery tunes; the other is sung by an Anglophone (or someone who never learned to pronounce the gargly French R sound).

Neither, therefore, is something I want to subject myself or my "more, more, more now!"-saying toddler to.

Any recommendations for specific artists, albums, or songs about winter or Christmas in French? I can probably find some of the classics--"Un Flambeau, Jeannette, Isabelle," "Il est ne, le divin enfant," "O Holy Night" (this is a recasting of the French original--but I can't remember what it's called and am too tired to Google it for now).

But what I'd really like are some more modern, less secular carols that will appeal to young children. You know, the Gallic equivalents of "Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer" and "Frosty the Snowman" and even "Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer," that sort of thing.

I'm also interested in hearing holiday songs in French from countries other than France. There are probably some Canadian, some Swiss, some Belgian carols, but I have no idea if Christians in, say, Tunisia sing about Santa and his camels. Can anyone tell me if French-language Christmas songs that reflect other areas in the Francophone world exist?

The one winter-themed traditional song that is representative of a particular culture that I know of is "Etoile des neiges," which if I remember correctly from my study-abroad days in Savoie is about young men from the Alpine countryside who would leave their 19th century villages to work as chimney sweeps in the big city but ultimately return to marry their sweethearts. The title of the song refers to the sparkle of sunlight on snow. (I could Google this one too--I would love to find a link where you could listen to it--but again, I just don't feel like it now.)

Here's hoping that those of you who celebrate Christmas have had a joyous one with your family, and wishing all of you lots of sparkles (snowy and otherwise) in the new year!


  1. Here are some nice Xmas songs in French :

    Henri Dès - "C'est le Père Noël"

    Anny et Jean-Marc Versini - "Père Noël frappe à la porte" and "Noël aux pays des marmottes et au pays des jouets"(a story and songs)

    You can listen to those on, for free =)

    Enjoy =)
    Et comme ça, Noël durera un peu plus longtemps ;o)


  2. This may not be what you're looking for, but here's how we get around this little problem (based on a suggestion, plea more like it, from my 4 year old) - I translate her favourite English songs on the fly :)

    Not necessarily with rhyming and all the rest of it, but the content is more or less there, plus or minus a bunch of creative additions/changes and she loves it. And since I can't ever remember one version from one time to the next, we get something new every time. She absolutely loves it and has turned it into a favourite part of her bedtime routine.

    And maybe I'll remember for next year to get a bunch of Christmas songs on CD before it's time to start on the advent calendar :)

  3. I really enjoy reading your blog when I swing by. Thanks for sharing!

    There are lovely CDs of classic, "native" French (and Provencal) Christmas music out there. But most French people don't seem know many Christmas songs, or know them vaguely but can't or won't sing them. It's always frustrated me. Though foreign-born, I grew up singing waaaay more classic French carols than my French friends/relatives. Caroling just isn't done. But nearly everyone knows "Petit Papa Noel". That's the closest thing to popular stuff like "Rudolph" or "Here Comes Santa Claus" I can think of. (And there are translations of foreign songs that are very popular, like "Vive le vent", i.e. "Jingle Bells", and "Mon beau sapin" ("O Tannenbaum/O Christmas Tree"). I'm sure you can find a CD of kid-oriented Christmas songs like these.

    A merry belated Christmas!