Nerdvana: Pat-A-Pan

Everyone has a favorite Christmas song. For some it’s “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”, for some it’s “Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town”, for some it’s “White Christmas”, for some it’s “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer”, for some it’s “Jingle Bells”…

Douchey McNitpick

“That is NOT a Christmas song! It’s a WINTER song! They don’t mention Christmas anywhere in the lyrics! Just like “Winter Wonderland” and “Baby, it’s Cold Outside”!

Yeah, we’ve covered that. Anyway, typical of my Aquarian nature, my favorite Christmas song is one that rarely gets played on Top 40 radio stations and has yet to be featured in a Rankin-Bass special: a little ditty called Pat-A-Pan.


“I’D like to pat a Pan, if ya know what I mean!”



“Whoa, TMI, man!”


For those who don’t know, “Pat-A-Pan” is a French Christmas carol in Burgundian dialect, later adapted into English. It was written by Bernard de La Monnoye (1641–1728) and first published in Noël bourguignons in 1720. Its’ original title is “Guillô, Pran Ton Tamborin” (“Willie, Bring Your Little Drum” or “Willie, Take Your Little Drum”).

The carol revolves around the birth of Jesus Christ, and is told from the perspective of shepherds playing simple instruments—flutes and drums—the onomatopoetic sound of which gives the song its name; “patapan” is meant to mimic the sound of the drum, and an accompanying lyric, “tu-re-lu-re-lu,” the flute. This is similar conceptually to the carol “The Little Drummer Boy”, with its chorus of “pa-rum-pa-pum-pum.”


“Uh, Gee Big, I don’t dig!”

Try to keep up. Anyway, here’s a traditional rendition of the song:


And now, a slightly more contemporary version courtesy of vocalist David Archuleta:

And finally, my personal favorite version of “Pat-A-Pan”, as well as the one that introduced me to the song, the version from Mannheim Steamroller. This version, originally recorded on their 1995 album Christmas in the Aire, is instrumental, so I wouldn’t hear the lyrics until later; as a result, I didn’t initially realize that this was a Christmas song, so my mental imagery for “Pat-A-Pan” has nothing to do with Christmas, Jesus or shepherds. I always envision an elf lady playing a pan-flute throughout a forest and getting the forest animals to dance to it. I honestly had no idea that this was holiday song until I later heard the lyrics.

Now that we’ve cleared that up, here’s my all-time favorite version of “Pat-A-Pan”.


So there you have it. My little tribute to a lesser known holiday song. Incidentally, I realize that Christmas was yesterday; think of it as an After Christmas sale.


We pass the redundancy on to YOU!



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