Advent Calendar Day 17 – Christmas Day (James & Wheeler)

After yesterday’s very wintry carol, how could I resist a proper Australian summer carol? I make my work carollers sing this one every year – the international postdocs love it to bits, and the locals all learned it in primary school, along with The Three Drovers and The Carol Of The Birds. The latter is possibly one of the easiest songs in the world to sing horribly – the ‘Orana’ can sound exactly like a cockatoo screeching if you aren’t careful.

Edited to add: on reflection, I wonder if the cockatoo screech was what the composer was aiming for?  Hard to say, really.

There are, in fact, a good few Australian carols (bush carols, really – urban Australia doesn’t inspire anyone to song, apparently), most of which seem to work from the premise that Jesus was born in Australia – Mary lulls him to sleep to the sound of boobooks and black swans guide cattle drovers to his cradle. When I was seven this bothered me a lot because that just wasn’t what happened. The one I’m sharing today manages not to do that, which is probably why I absolutely loved this the first time I heard it – which was, as it happens, during that Christmas we spent in England. For reasons that escape me, we actually learned this one in primary school, though it didn’t have the second verse, and instead had a first verse with the robin under the eaves sheltering from the snow. I wonder if the teacher wrote that verse, because I’ve never seen or heard it since?

Strictly speaking, I think the Carol of the Birds is a better carol, and there are a number of other Australian carols with better music to them. But this has always been to me the quintessential Australian Christmas carol, and on a day when Melbourne has suddenly noticed it’s summer, it feels like the only possible choice.


The North Wind is tossing the leaves
The red dust is over the town
The sparrows are under the eaves
And the grass in the paddock is brown
As we lift up our voices and sing
To the Christ Child, our heavenly King!

The tree ferns in green gullies sway
The cool stream flows silently by
The joy bells are greeting the day
And the chimes are adrift in the sky
As we lift up our voices and sing
To the Christ Child, our heavenly King!

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