Towards the end of the year, many Western countries traditionally celebrate Christmas. With the increase in travel for so many reasons, it is clear that even this one occasion is not celebrated in the same way in each country and culture. In the last few years, we have celebrated in December with special lists of songs about Christmas: Christmas songs for nurseries, lullabies from around the world, and even the Twelve Days of Christmas. This year, we are introducing celebration songs from around the world.

A 2021 article from Oxford (https://migrationobservatory.ox.ac.uk/resources/briefings/migrants-in-the-uk-an-overview/) indicates that the top countries represented in England include India, Poland, Romania and Italy, and with more people coming from the Ukraine this year, we have added this country to our list of musical celebrations, too. Celebrations can look so different because of traditions, customs and even the weather, so we have included some of the details of these celebrations from each country that could be shared in a group setting.

Often it is easier to learn a new language through music, and relate to other cultures through music, so we have included a YouTube link to these songs and hope that this will inspire you to become a more inclusive nursery.

India – Diwali

In India, Diwali is celebrated between October to November as a Festival of Lights. This often means that the house is covered in lights and colours, in the hopes that reducing the darkness will bring hope and good luck in the new year. Diwali cards are sent and special celebration food is enjoyed, with special rituals that are held during the 5 days before the big day. On the first day, the house is cleaned; on the second day, footprints are pasted around the home to welcome in the light; day 3 involves buying new clothes or jewellery; on day 4, the house is decorated with rangoli, or geometric flower designs; and day 5 is where lights are placed all around the home, especially door ways. To celebrate this light, we use a different version of “Twinkle, Twinkle”.

Diwali Light


Twinkle, Twinkle Diwali light
How you sparkle in the night
Let’s celebrate Di-Wa-li
Everyone, you and me
Twinkle, Twinkle Diwali light
Keep on shining oh so bright

Poland – boze Narodzenie

In Poland, Christmas is celebrated with fasting all day on Christmas Eve (Wigilia) until the first star appears – then it is time for a special Christmas Eve dinner with 12 different dishes. Part of the celebration includes setting an extra seat for unexpected guests, as well as building Christmas cribs. To celebrate this holiday, we have chosen a lovely Christmas lullaby.



Lulajże, Jezuniu, moja perełko,
Lulaj ulubione me pieścidełko.
Lulajże, Jezuniu, lulajże, lulaj,
A ty, Go Matulu, w płaczu utulaj

Lullaby, little baby Jesus, my little pearl,
Lull, my favourite little cuddly one.
Lullaby, little baby Jesus, lullaby, lull,
And you, the mama, calm him down when crying.

For more information on Polish Christmas, click here:

Romania - Craciun

Christmas begins early in Romania, with no meat eaten from 14 November, special shoe cleaning by children, gifts in shoes, and letter-writing to Santa. This is followed by dressing up, feasts, and carolling in the streets. One carol that has travelled is “O Christmas Tree”, better known in German as “O Tannenbaum”. Celebrating the evergreen fir tree, with the hope for new life and prosperity in the new year, we celebrate Romanian Christmas with “O Brad Frumos”:

O Brad Frumos


O, brad frumos, o, brad frumos,
Cu cetina tot verde,
Tu ești copacul credincios,
Ce frunza nu și-o pierde.
O, brad frumos, o, brad frumos,
Cu cetina tot verde

For more information on celebrating Christmas in Romania, click here: https://theculturetrip.com/europe/romania/articles/how-do-romanians-celebrate-christmas/ 

Italy - Natale

Italian Christmas is all about the people and the food, and takes most of the month to celebrate. Towns put up trees, each house has a nativity scene, and children sing in the streets for chocolate. Christmas Eve involves avoiding meat and only eating seafood and vegetables. Christmas Day involves very few gifts, with the focus on food, and meals can last for hours of at least 4 courses, where all may eat meat. To celebrate Italian Christmas, we have chosen the Latin version of “O Come All Ye Faithful”:

Adeste Fideles


Adeste fideles
Læti triumphantes,
Venite, venite in Bethlehem.
Natum videte
Regem angelorum:
Venite adoremus
Venite adoremus
Venite adoremus

For more information on celebrating Christmas in Italy, click here: https://www.languagesalive.com/christmas-in-italy/ 

Ukraine - Христос народився

Traditionally, Christmas only starts in January in Ukraine, but it is becoming more common to celebrate in December, like most other Western countries. Christmas Eve is a special event where the family holds a special holy dinner when the first star is seen, although everyone will be preparing from early morning. The meal involves twelve dishes that represent the twelve apostles of Jesus, and the main decorations are a sheaf of wheat, symbolising ancestor’s spirits. Food is left on the table afterwards for the visiting ancestors to enjoy. Children perform puppet shows, and people sing carols to their neighbours for sweets – the more carollers, the more good luck you will have.

For more information on celebrating Christmas in Ukraine, click here: https://ukraine.ua/visit/christmas-in-ukraine/

Зірко, зірко, мерехти

Зірко, зірко, мерехти,
Недосяжна в небі ти!
Сяєш ніжно ти мені,
Мов коштовність у пітьмі!
Зірко, зірко, мерехти,
Недосяжна в небі ти!

Zirko, zirko, merekhty,
Nedosyazhna v nebi ty!
Syayesh nizhno ty meni,
Mov koshtovnistʹ u pitʹmi!
Zirko, zirko, merekhty,
Nedosyazhna v nebi ty!

Star, star, twinkle,
You are faraway in heaven!
You shine tenderly for me,
Like a jewel in the dark!
Star, star, twinkle,
You are faraway in heaven!

Finding out more about other cultures helps us to appreciate the similarities and differences between us. It also helps us to better understand the traditions that make our own celebrations meaningful. Introducing little ones to different cultures and traditions gives them that same gift, too.

About the author:

Musician, researcher and author, Frances Turnbull, is a self-taught guitarist who has played contemporary and community music from the age of 12. She delivers music sessions to the early years and KS1. Trained in the music education techniques of Kodály (specialist singing), Dalcroze (specialist movement) and Orff (specialist percussion instruments), she has a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology (Open University) and a Master’s degree in Education (University of Cambridge). She runs a local community choir, the Bolton Warblers, and delivers the Sound Sense initiative aiming for “A choir in every care home” within local care and residential homes, supporting health and wellbeing through her community interest company.

She has represented the early years music community at the House of Commons, advocating for recognition for early years music educators, and her table of progressive music skills for under 7s features in her curriculum books.

Frances is the author of “Learning with Music: Games and Activities for the Early Years“ “Learning with Music: Games and Activities for the Early Years“, published by Routledge, August 2017.


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