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Sharing Words

On Christmas Eve 2021 we think about all of our globally representative staff who are still working to care for the people of Bristol and Weston. We imagine hearing all the special greetings and all the special songs from their cultural traditions, and sharing an understanding of their meaning, if not all of the words.



Did you know there are 91 languages spoken in Bristol? Food writer and broadcaster Kalpna Woolf  who founded 91 Ways: Uniting the 91 Language Communities of Bristol Through Food in 2015 said recently:


“Now more than ever, we need to celebrate our common humanity, by coming together to build bridges and find the common ground which exists between us all”. 


Photo credit: Jon Craig

Some Christmas Eve traditions are similar, others are rooted in the natural world and the local climate. Here we look at just a few.


Silent Night is the most popular song in the world. Franz Xaver Gruber composed Stille Nacht, heilige Nacht in 1818 in Austria. The words were added two years later, and since then have been translated into over 100 languages. Silent Night was even declared an ‘intangible cultural heritage’ by UNESCO in 2011. Listen to a beautiful rendition here by Kings College Choir. 


In New Zealand, carols are sung in both English and Maori around the Pohutukawa tree, a coastal plant that has bright red blooms and provides shade in the December heat. 


In the Philippines, the city of San Fernando holds Ligligan Parul (Giant Lantern Festival) featuring dazzling parols (lanterns) that symbolize the Star of Bethlehem. Each parol consists of thousands of spinning lights that illuminate the not so silent night sky.


For the Danes, as in many countries, ancient rituals connected to the solstice and the return of the sun are intertwined with Christmas traditions. On December 24, Danish families place their Christmas tree in the middle of the room and dance around it while singing carols.


Brazilian and Portuguese families eat a late dinner at 10pm on Christmas Eve then, at exactly midnight, they exchange gifts and raise a toast to wish each other a Merry Christmas. After the service of Missa Do Galo (Rooster Mass) there are often fireworks.

'Twas the Night Before Christmas

A popular British tradition is to read the poem A Visit from St Nicholas by Clement Clarke Moore - better known by its first line 'Twas the Night Before Christmas…


On Christmas Eve 2019 Robert Woolley, the Chief Executive of the Trust, read this special version to thank staff. 


‘Twas the nightshift before Christmas, when all through the Trust

Not a creature was stirring, except those who must.


All of the handovers were delivered with care

So that staff across the hospital would know who was there.


The patients were nestled all snug in their beds

Or sat in the discharge lounge, waiting for meds


While housekeepers in yellow and ODPs in red

Were getting prepared for the night shift ahead.


Now site team, now nurses, now switchboard and porters,

On-security, on-registrars, on-midwives and on-callers.


From the top of St Mike’s to the wards of South Bristol,

Everyone working amongst a flurry of tinsel.


Whirring machines and lights that are flashing

If an emergency happens, they will come dashing.


Because whether you’re with us, day or night

We’re here to try and make things merry and bright


So before the sun rises, and the bays fill with light,

Happy Christmas to all, and to all, a good night.

Thank you to each and every member of staff working over the festive season to keep our hospitals running. 


We hope you have enjoyed this year’s Audio Advent.

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