An Italian Christmas carol

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Visiting Italy during Christmastime has been on my bucket list for many years, but for now that dream visit will have to wait. Instead, I would like to share an Italian Christmas carol that makes me feel close to the people in this special country. That carol is “Tu Scendi dalle Stelle.” Although virtually unkown in America, it is said to be the best-loved Christmas carol in Italy.

The music and lyrics for “Tu Scendi dalle Stelle” were written in 1732, by Saint Alphonsus Liguori, who was a Neapolitan priest. Liguori originally gave the song the title, “Little song to Child Jesus,” but the song has since become known by its first line, “From Starry Skies Descending,” or in modern English, “You Came Down from the Stars.”

Liguori most likely took inspiration for this Christmas carol from a Neapolitan song called “Quanno Nascette Ninno” (“When the child was born”), which is also called “Canzone d’i Zampognari” (“The Carol of the Bagpipers”).

I hope you enjoy reading the first two stanzas of the lyrics to this song. The traditional translation uses antiquated English. There are many versions recorded on You Tube. If you like, click on the link or video below for my favorite, from the You Tube channel lorpre87.  




Tu scendi dalle stelle From starry skies descending,
O Re del Cielo Thou comest, glorious King,
e vieni in una grotto A manger low Thy bed,
al freddo e al gelo. In winter’s icy sting.
O Bambino mio Divino O my dearest Child most holy,
Io ti vedo qui a tremar, Shudd’ring, trembling in the cold
O Dio Beato Great God, Thou lovest me!
Ahi, quanto ti costò What suff’ring Thou didst bear,
l’avermi amato! That I near Thee might be!
A te, che sei del mondo Thou art the world’s Creator,
il Creatore, God’s own and true Word,
mancano panni e fuoco; Yet here no robe, no fire
O mio Signore! For Thee, Divine Lord.
Caro eletto Pargoletto, Dearest, fairest, sweetest Infant
Quanto questa povertà Dire this state of poverty
più mi innamora! The more I care for Thee,
Giacché ti fece amor Since Thou, O Love Divine
povero ancora! Will’st now so poor to be.


Buon Natale a tutti voi!

About Kathryn Occhipinti

Dr. Kathryn Occhipinti is a radiologist who has been leading Italian language groups in the Peoria and Chicago areas for more than 10 years. She is the author of the “Conversational Italian for Travelers” series of books to teach adults Italian with the vocabulary they need to travel to Italy. She is very active on social media promoting Italian language and culture through her Facebook group Conversational Italian! as well on Twitter @travelitalian1. Links to audio for her Italian language dialogues and her blogs for beginning and intermediate Italian can be found at

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