Delicate Norwegian Christmas cookies. The grateful smiles of an elderly couple. Steaming hot cocoa topped with marshmallows. Old fashioned Christmas lights twinkling on snow covered houses. This is the potpourri of memories that I have of caroling for my grandparent's neighbors in Minnesota when I was a child. It's a tradition that I've carried with me around the world, organizing caroling parties for expat friends far from their families. There's something about singing "Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer" and "O Little Town of Bethlehem" that always puts me in the holiday mood, even if it's in a karaoke bar in the tropics with the air conditioner running at full blast.
Yesterday, I was very happy to join an expat Meetup group caroling in front of the St-Michel fountain in Paris. Singing off-tune to "Silent Night" and "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree", I was surprised when a young man from Serbia asked me how I knew all of the lyrics. It's because these songs are a part of my life, my history.
The shoe was on the other foot, so to speak, when I went to the "Christmas Carol Service" in French and English at Les Féeries d'Auteuil because I only knew a couple of the songs, like "Entre le bouef et l'ane gris". Not wanting to hurt your ears by screeching off-tune in bad French, I kept my mouth firmly shut while filming the following video. Much to Stéphane's dismay, however, this is the song that got stuck in my head, so I've been singing the first verse over and over again at home.
Entre le bœuf et l'âne gris
Dort, dort, dort le petit fils,
Mille anges divins, mille séraphins
Volent à l'entour de ce grand Dieu d'amour.