The Kalanta: Greek Christmas, New Year’s, and Epiphany Carols

December 31, 2017

The singing of carols in Greece can be traced back to ancient times, though the word kalanta is thought to refer to the Latin word calends for the beginning of the month. With the spread of Christianity, the custom of caroling focused on the celebration of the birth of Christ, New Year’s and Epiphany which rounds out the 12 days of Christmas.

According to tradition, children go from door to door and ask if they can sing for each household. Once the permission is granted, the children sing with triangles as the main accompaniment. After the performance, the householder gives some sweets, traditional Christmas cookies or pastries to the children, though today, money is often given.

The English translation of the carols follows.

For Christmas:

Good evening noblemen

If this is your will,

Christ’s holy birth

May I sing in your noble house

Christ is being born today

In the town of Bethlehem

Heavens rejoice

All of nature is happy.

Inside the cave (He) is being born

In a manger for horses

The King of the heavens

The Creator of everything.

A crowd of angels are singing,

“Ossana in excelsis”,

And holly is

The faith of the shepherds.

From Persia three magi arrive

With their gifts

A bright star shows them the way

Without any delay.

In this house we have come

May no stone ever crack

And the landlord

May live for many years.

For the New Year:

First of the month and first of the year

My tall rosemary

Let our good year begin

Church with the holy throne

It is the beginning when Christ

Holy and spiritual

Will walk on earth

And cheer us up

St. Basil is on his way

And will not deign on us

From Kesaria

You’re a Lady milady

For Epiphany:

Today is the lights and the enlightment

The happiness is big and the sanctification

Down the Jordan River

Sits our Lady the Blessed Virgin Mary

She carries an organ, a candle she holds

And pleads with St. John.

St. John lord and Baptist

Baptize this divine child of mine

I shall ascend to the heavens

To gather roses and incense

Good day, good day

Good day to you master and the missus.


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