web analytics
Skip to main content

Interpreting Christmas songs and hymns into ASL is a challenge for even the most skilled interpreters. Without being disrespectful, and just playing with the words as interpreters tend to do, I wonder as I wander, how far away is the manger? What is a herald angel? How do you ransom captive Israel? How round was the yon virgin? Why would you go tell it on a mountain instead of to people?

Seriously, though, Christmas songs are beautiful. Most have very scriptural words and ideas. Each seems to capture a story in three to five minutes of memorable melody. However, ASL interpreters often tremble at the thought of painting these pictures on their hands.

Realize that the beauty that is heard must also be seen. Melody will not transfer into hands, but the story can and should. Consider these helpful ideas before signing Christmas hymns and songs.

Consider the question words. Who is included in the song? Where is it located — at the manger, in a town, on a hill, in a church? What is the storyline of the song? What mood or feeling does the song create in you — joy, sadness, loneliness, glory, wonder? Why was the song written (this may take some research)? How well do the Deaf people know the song? In other words, do they expect you to sign the English words — all the English words, or just certain words or phrases? How many singers are there? (We once signed the Hallelujah Chorus with 4 interpreters, each signing the words of the Sopranos, Altos, Tenors, and Basses!)

After the research, consider how to create the same mood, tone, or feeling of each song with your hands. Do not be overly expressive, but show just enough emotion and motion needed to be effective. Practice matching the rhythm or feeling of the song. “Mary, Did You Know,” is more slow and thoughtful than “Joy to the World.”

Most of all, do not let your fear hinder the beauty and tradition of these special songs. Let your face show the awe and splendor of the Christ we worship through these timeless hymns. Relax and enjoy the music as you create it on your hands. Sing and sign from your heart, through your hands, to their eyes and hearts!

Leave a Reply