Polish Christmas carols: 7 of the best
Our guide to the most famous Polish Christmas carols
Poland has amongst the most varied Christmas carols of any country, but which are the most popular, the most tuneful, and the most famous of them all? Here is our round-up of favourite Polish Christmas carols.
Best Polish christmas carols
Bóg się rodzi (God is born)
Probably the most famous of all the Polish carols is Bóg się rodzi. With its stately melody, it was even briefly considered by some as an alternative to the Polish national anthem. The lyrics were written in 1792 by Franciszek Karpiński but the music was written hundreds of years earlier and was used as the coronation hymn for Polish kings dating back as far as the reign of Stefan Batory in the 16th century.
Gdy Się Chrystus Rodzi (When Christ was born)
Some say this smoothly melodious carol came from France, but, due to scarcity of sources, it's difficult to say for sure. The earliest printed version dates from 1843 and was found in 'Pastorałki i carols' with melodies by Fr. Michał Mioduszewski.
Gdy Śliczna Panna (When the Lovely Virgin Mary)
Dating from the early 18th century, this anonymous carol was very popular in its time, particularly in convents. Its lyrics describe the Virgin Mary rocking the baby Jesus as he sleeps.
Pójdźmy Wszyscy do Stajenki (Let's all go to the stable)
The lively character and marching rhythm of this song is appropriate given that it's all about the journey to the stable where the baby Jesus is lying. While its lyrics date from the 18th century, its melody was added a hundred years later and was probably written around the Krákow area, though the composer remains anonymous.
Wśród Nocnej Ciszy (In the Stillness of Night)
Traditionally sung at Midnight Mass in Poland, this dignified 19th century carol first appeared in a church songbook by Fr. Michał Marcin Mioduszewski. It has since been reworked many times, with various patriotic songs sung to its melody.
More like this
Lulajże Jezuniu (Sleep, little Jesus)
The composer Frédéric Chopin used a motif from this carol in the middle section of his scherzo in B minor, Op.20. And no wonder that he found inspiration in it. Written in the 1600s as a lullaby for the baby Jesus, 'Lulajże Jezuniu' is one of Poland's most beautiful carols - considered by many as an emblem of 'Polishness' - and it continues to be regularly sung by Polish families on Christmas Eve. It also known outside Poland, for example, in France, where it was translated into 'Nuit de lumière.'
W Dzień Bożego Narodzenia (On Christmas Day)
Though rarely heard nowadays, this happy and festive 17th century carol has historical significance. During the First World War, Bolesław Pochmarski, an academic serving in the trenches, adapted 'W Dzień Bożego Narodzenia' into a new carol, the 'Christmas carol of the legions', whose nationalist lyrics (That in the cannon roar, the smoke, the Polish name, the Polish name, is resurrected?) served to boost morale when it was sung by Polish soldiers on Christmas Eve 1915.
Hannah Nepilova is a regular contributor to BBC Music Magazine. She has also written for The Financial Times, The Times, The Strad, Gramophone, Opera Now, Opera, the BBC Proms and the Philharmonia, and runs The Cusp, an online magazine exploring the boundaries between art forms. Born to Czech parents, she has a strong interest in Czech music and culture.