My Winter Playlist: 11 Interfaith Songs for the Holidays

It’s difficult to walk down the street and not see at least one person decked out with ear buds, bobbing their head to the music, perhaps mouthing the words. Music has become a staple in modern society. We have the hipster persona that relies heavily on non-mainstream music. We judge people on whether they like Justin Bieber or Skrillex. We bond with others over our favorite artists. Whether we are sad, happy, excited, tired, stunned, complacent, disdainful, jovial, magnanimous or savage, there is at least one song that matches our particular mood. There are so many genres of music that it’s hard to decide which one is your favorite. One thing, though, is certain: each genre is distinctive- especially those pertaining to cultures, and thereby, their respective religions.

I believe music is one of the best ways to get a feeling for other people. Regardless of whether you understand the words to the music, if it even has words, the emotion mixed with the unique blend of instruments creates a sensory experience of that particular culture or faith for the listener. The spirit of a faith can be heard in their music, specifically in their prayers.

For example, when listening to Christian hymns (on the many faith exploration trips I’ve taken), one can’t help but sense the feeling the hope that sustains the Christian faith. Or when hearing a song from Togo with the heavy drum instrumentals and resonating vocals, the deep earthly connection the Togoan people have is evident.

Music provides one of the ultimate interfaith experiences; a way of communicating without words, with others you may never meet, but can get to know dearly through their form of expression. Some like to think that because they are of a certain faith or background, they cannot dabble in another culture or tradition, yet when we explore someone elses background, we form a bond with them.

At this specific time of year when Christians go a-caroling, Jews light candles eight nights in a row, Buddhists decorate their houses with colored lights, and Muslims sacrifice an animal to share, many prayers and songs accompany to both add to the celebration and provide unity. When everyone joins together in a chant or in song, everyone feels connected to one another, even those who are just listening. Winter is a time for everyone from various faiths to come together and celebrate, and stay warm both through candlelight and song.

Below I have compiled a winter playlist of songs from various faith and cultural traditions:

Angels We Have Heard On High-A song based on a Christian hymn
Canciones de Navidad-Traditional Spanish Christmas Songs
Maoz Tzur-Traditional Hannukah song
Japanese Snow Song-Japanese instrumental
O Holy Night– Traditional Christmas Carol
The Kwanzaa Song-Non-traditional Kwanzaa Song
Takbir Eid-Eid al-Adha Chant, Muslim chant
Sevivon-The Dreidel Song
Konko-Japanese Children’s Song
African Lullaby-a soft non-winter African song
Winter Moments– A quiet meditation song

What are your favorite winter or holiday songs?
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