Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Australian Christmas Carols

With Christmas rapidly approaching, and the airwaves and shopping malls serenading us with Carols and songs of varying relevance to Christmas, I thought our Northern Hemisphere friends may be interested to know that we do actually have our own carols in Australia, portraying a very different atmosphere to those we normally associate with Christmas music. The lyrics, which were all written by John Wheeler, concentrate on nature and the climate at this time yet show that we can still celebrate Christmas without snow, reindeer, and wood fires. Below are just five of fifteen Australian Carols that I have on a record; there may be others that I'm unaware of.

Across the plains one Christmas night
Three drovers riding blithe and gay,
Looked up and saw a starry light
More radiant than the Milky Way;
And on their hearts such wonder fell,
They sang with joy.
'Noel! Noel! Noel! Noel! Noel!'

The air was dry with summer heat,
And smoke was on the yellow moon;
But from the heavens, faint and sweet,
Came floating down a wond'rous turn;
And as they heard, they sang full well
Those drovers three.
'Noel! Noel! Noel! Noel! Noel!'

The black swans flew across the sky,
The wild dog called across the plain,
The starry lustre blazed on high,
Still echoed on the heavenly strain;
And still they sang, 'Noel! Noel!'
Those drovers three.
'Noel! Noel! Noel! Noel! Noel!'


Out on the plains the brolgas are dancing,
Lifting their feet like war horses prancing,
Up to the sun the woodlarks go winging,
Faint in the dawn light echoes their singing,
Orana! Orana!Orana! To Christmas Day.

Down where the tree-ferns grow by the river,
There where the waters sparkle and quiver,
Deep in the gullies Bell-birds are chiming,
Softly and sweetly their lyric notes rhyming
Orana! Orana!Orana! To Christmas Day.

Friar-birds sip the nectar of flowers,
Currawongs chant in wattle-tree bowers,
In the blue ranges Lorikeets calling,
Carols of bushlands rising and falling,
Orana! Orana!Orana! To Christmas Day.


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 the 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 the Heavenly King.


When the sun’s a golden rose,
And the magpie carols clear,
You can say, and I can say,
On the summer morning,
Here at last is Christmas Day,
The day that Christ was born on,
The day that Christ was born on,
When the wand’ring, lonely sheep,
Find at last a shady pool,
You can say, and I can say,
On the outback station,
Here at last is Christmas Day,
The day Christ brought salvation,
The day Christ brought salvation.

When the ranges turn to flame,
And the winds like trumpets blow,
You can say, and I can say,
Seven times and seven,
Here at last is Christmas Day,
The day that Christ came from Heaven,
The day that Christ came from Heaven.
But when summer’s shining moon,
Dips a silver chalice bright,
You can say, and I can say,
Joyously and airy –
Here at last is Christmas Day,
The day Christ smiled at Mary,
The day Christ smiled at Mary.


Now once again it’s Noel time,
And ev’ry steeple rings;
The sun is like the great gold star
That led the Eastern Kings;
O come with me where hills are brown,
And Christmas Bush grows wild,
So we can make a Christmas crown
To grace a Kingly Child
O let us seek in Noel time,
Through sunshine and through shade,
Until we find the Christmas Bush
His Kingly hands have made;
The fires are burning on the hill,
The smoke is coming down,
But Christmas Bush is blooming still
To make a Kingly Crown.


H080J03 said...

wow i never reely thought about austraili and there x mas time, it seems weird for us to think about Xmas & Summer

Miss Robyn said...


Jellyhead said...

Some of these I had never heard of. Thanks Alice - I actually felt really Christmas-y after reading these. I know it's odd for Northern hemisphere dwellers, but Christmas here is balmy weather (well, at least up here in Queensland!), watermelon juice running down to elbows, families sprawling around inside or in the shade...all as a backdrop to the religious celebration itself.

Susan Tidwell said...

I was thinking just the other day, I wonder if y'all listen to the same Christmas songs we do, about snow etc., that would be strange in your climate. Mr. Wheeler has captured the spirit of the season and the climate. Thanks for sharing, another learning experience about Australia!

Peggy said...

Thanks Alice, I enjoyed reading the songs. Will have to search the internet so I can listen to them. I spent 5 yrs in Fla and we had Christmas dinner on the patio and it just wasn't the same. I am a winter person though I would endure the heat to visit your garden!!

Alice said...

Jellyhead - I've just had to go back and read your entire blog from beginning to end to try and work out why I thought you lived in Melbourne. Of course, I have no idea, but I'm sure my mind will eventually come to grips with the fact that you are a Northerner, not a Southerner.

Sandy said...

It is strange for me to think of Christmas in the sun. It obviously appeals to my parents as they just told me they are going to Palm Springs on the 22nd to the 27th.

Judy Birmingham (Seeing Anew Blog) said...

Thank you for sharing these carols with us! I think I will have to find his music on the net. I bet it's beautiful. I have always wondered how people in warm climates celebrate Christmas -- I sense from this music that it has the same comfort and cheer and sense of drawing together that Christmas has in colder places. These songs hint at the key to the season's spirit, regardless of climate -- there is a sense of nature as a path to the Divine, and of birds and trees and moon and stars all in a state of joyful anticipation of new life. A wonderful part of Christmas for me is going out and looking for color and signs of life -- red rose hips, buds awaiting spring, birds darting to and from their nests.

Judy Birmingham (Seeing Anew Blog) said...

Carol of the Birds is at:

Have a listen if you need a day brightener! Thanks for sharing these carols.

Alice said...

Thanks, Judith, for the URL for 'Carol of the Birds'. Unfortunately, it's played at about 1/3 of the actual tempo of the carol and the melody is barely recognisable.

I don't know the musical terms but most of the carols have a fairly fast, lilting melody; scarcely any of them are as slow as the traditional carols. Obviously with the lyrics emphasising light and sun, birds, animals and water, the melody has to project that image.

Thank you all for your interest and your comments.

Erica said...

your post took me back to my school days when we actually learnt and sang these in music class, I've added another at my blog

WendyAs said...

We plan on going to Carols By the Sea, Hobart. Thanks for the words. We can sing along now.

Anonymous said...

I recall singing the "Christmas Day" song as a child growing up in out back Australia in the 1970's. And then it slipped into history for me.
Living in central London for over 13 years (and still not a white Christmas!)..
the lyrics "The North Wind is tossing the leaves," have a more familiar ring to them.
And drove me onto the intertet and found your page.
Thankyou from an Ausie lad(man) a long way from the Red Dust.

Anonymous said...

I often wondered what Christmas was like for you guys down in the southern hemisphere. Now I know. Thanks for sharing with all of us up north.

Anonymous said...

anyone have the lyrics to "Six White Boomers" ???

Been looking for this one everywhere!?

Anonymous said...

Six White Boomers is at
Cheers mate!
GP in OZ

Anonymous said...

Anyone have the lyrics to "The silver stars are in the sky"

Alice said...

Robyn - here are the words for the carol you requested. Thank you.

The silver stars are in the sky,
The red-gold moon is riding high,
O, sleep my little one, sleep!
Once long ago against her breast
A mother hush'd her babe to rest,
Who was the Prince of Heav'n above,
The Lord of gentleness and love
O, sleep my little one, sleep!
The boo-book calls across the night,
The brown moths flutter in the light,
O, sleep my little one, sleep!
In Bethlehem long, long ago,
When roads and paddocks gleam'd with snow;
On this same night, that mother mild
Lull'd in to dreams her Royal Child.
So, sleep my little one, sleep!

Anonymous said...

Hey, thanks so much. We will be feeding around 100 homeless people in our backyard this Christmas Eve. I was looking for something to entertain them. Great!

Anonymous said...

It was great to come across your site. I learnt some of these carols growing up the Sydney in the 1940's and I loved Carol of the Birds. I love Christmas with its heat and mozzies and all the family together and these days we all go to the beach for a picnic. But I have lovely memories of the simple Christmas we had as a child.

Anonymous said...

hey guys does any 1 no the difference between traditional christmas carols and australian christmas songs if you do post the answer to

Anonymous said...

anyone have the lyrics to Christmas is a time to love?

Alice said...

I guess the main difference between the 'traditional' Carols and the Australian Carols is - the climate! Traditional Carols originate in Europe where it's winter time in December, in Australia it's summer time, and this is reflected in many of the lyrics.

Anonymous said...

Thank you Alice - may your Christmas be full of family laughter.

My query concerns the music for these words. I can remember some but would realy like to share them with my friends who need the music to play at Carols Night next week
Thank you again

Anonymous said...

Hi Alice
Just wanted to say that "Christmas Day" reminds me of Christmases spent in the Adelaide Hills with my in-laws when my children (now in their twenties) were tiny. The atmosphere of the hot dry paddocks and green dark gullies match those lyrics perfectly. Feel quite teary when I read them as my in-laws are no longer with us and we are now the olds in the family.
Recently heard the carol again. Wheeler was quite a poet and aren't those words so full of reverence?

Anonymous said...

Yvonne Kenny has a beautiful rendition of several of the Australian carols, including "The Birds" and "When a Child is Born." She's got a fantastic voice anyway, and hearing her do those songs was lovely. I've never been to Australia, but I love Chirstmas carols from all over the world, so my friend from Sydney sent me the Kenny CD (as well as one of popular joke songs that includes "Six White Boomers").

Anonymous said...

Anybody know the words to a christmas song my kids sang in Port Hedland, Western Australia, in the early 1980's - it has words something along the lines of..... "when it's christmas down below-ee-o, even though we don't have snow-ee-o, it's every bit as cheerio, in the southern hemisphere-ee-o, it's our favourite time of year, when it's christmas in the southern hemisphere." I'm sure there are more verses, and the above is possibly/probably wrong, but hey, it's the thought! Cheers, Geoff

Alice said...

Geoff - sorry, but I've never heard of the Christmas song that you mention. Perhaps someone else will have though.

Thanks for your comment.

GHB said...

Here is my story. I asked my dad what season it was in australia today. he told me it was spring. so i asked what about christmas. he told it was closer to summer. so i told him that i have to find some azzie christmas songs b/c i know that the songs will be unlike the regular american songs that i am so custom to. so thanks for posting all these songs they have been very helpful on my hunt for the aussie xmas meldey. urs truely, GHB

a good yarn said...

Thank you so much. I haven't seen or sung these carols since primary school. I loved them then and still do.

Merry Christmas...Ann