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Five Arabic Christmas songs to get you through the festive season

From Arabic renditions of western classics by Fairuz to contemporary originals by Carole Samaha, we look at some of the region's festive music
Lebanese singer Fairuz performs at Emirates Palace theatre in Abu Dhabi in 2006 (Reuters)

Christmas jingles are a defining part of the holiday season for anyone raised in the western world, with an entire catalogue of classics ranging from Bing Crosby's It's Beginning To Look a Lot Like Christmas to Mariah Carey's All I Want For Christmas Is You.

These songs are so widely played in shopping malls and stores that they become part of the background noise during the festive season.

As the birthplace of Christianity and home to sizeable communities of Christians, the songs are also popular in the Middle East.

In the Arab world specifically, western numbers have inspired a number of local renditions, which have taken on a life of their own. That's in addition to a number of original classics dedicated to the holiday by Arab artists.

Here Middle East Eye gives its pick of five festive tracks from the Arab world:

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1. Laylet Eid by Fairuz 

Laylet Eid means the Night of Christmas, and even the most mildy attentive western ears will pick up on the familiarity of the tune.

The song by Fairuz is an Arabic version of the classic Jingle Bells, which was first composed by the American James Lord Pierpont in the mid-19th century.

The lyrics for the song were written by the Rahbani brothers, Assi and Mansour, the former being the singer's husband until his death in 1986.

In keeping with its festive theme, the song talks about Christmas traditions, such as family gatherings, Christmas trees and gift giving, and there is even a nod to the "jingling bells" of the English original.

Fairuz, who is considered one of the Arab world's greatest performers, is an Eastern Orthodox Christian.

2. Ahla bi Yassouh by Carole Samaha 

Lebanese singer Carole Samaha’s song Ahla bi Yassouh (Hello Jesus) is a popular contemporary Christmas number across the region.

Released in 2018, the song talks of the festive atmosphere of the holiday season and the feelings of warmth it brings about.

Samaha, who is a Maronite Christian, won the award for best female newcomer in the Arab Music Award 2004 and has been performing ever since.  

3. Sawt el-Eid by Fairuz

Another entry by Fairuz, Sawt el-Eid means the Sound of Christmas and the tune will again be recognisable to those familiar with the catalogue of western Christmas songs.

The song is an Arabic rendition of the classic Silent Night, which was originally composed in German by the Austrian priest Joseph Mohr, and was popularised among western audiences by a Bing Crosby rendition and a later one by Frank Sinatra.

Fairuz's lyrics retain the heavy religious symbolism of Mohr's original, which celebrates the birth of Jesus and the salvation his life will bring for humanity.

4. Jras el Eid by Salwa Katrib 

Salwa Katrib, a Lebanese singer and actress from the city of Tripoli, is well known for her song Jras el Eid or Christmas Bells.

Like Fairuz's Laylat Eid, the song follows the same tune as Jingle Bells, and similarly contains imagery associated with the holiday season.

Despite being released in 1994, the song remains a popular fixture during Christmas in the Middle East.

5. Sahrit Eid by Majida el Roumi

Lebanese singer Majida el Roumi released her song Christmas Evening in 2013, as part of her feast album Nour men Nour (Light from light) . 

Like many of the other festive tunes from the region, the song is about celebrating the Christmas spirit with family and friends, as well as traditions, such as gift giving.

The album contains 12 songs and carols, including one titled Bethlehem.

This article is available in French on Middle East Eye French edition.

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