Dominick the Donkey: the symbol of the famous Italian Christmas song

Dominick the donkey

When it comes to the Christmas holiday, the time of joy around the world is fulfilled with songs and traditions. And Italy is no exception, there is even a special song for Christmas in this country. Italian people love to listen to this Christmas song, which is named Dominick the Donkey, pretty much every day from the beginning of December until the end of January. Moreover, Italians also like to enjoy this song during summertime. The song started to gather attention in many countries during the holiday season as it had catchy lyrics and a fun rhythm. Thus, we decided to tell you everything there is to know about the origin of the Dominick the Donkey song, who is Dominick as well as how important this song is to people around the world. Now let’s sing along the Donkey Song!

What is the “Dominick the Donkey” song?

“Dominick the Donkey” is also sometimes called “Dominick the Italian Christmas Donkey”. It is an American-Italian Christmas song, describing a donkey who assists Santa Claus in bringing presents made in Brooklyn to the children in Italy. Indeed, since the reindeer had a hard time climbing Italy’s hills, a donkey was the perfect fit for the job!

Who is Dominick?

Dominick is the cutest little Italian Christmas donkey, on top of being friends with Santa Claus. As we previously mentioned above, he is in charge of bringing presents made in Brooklyn to the children in Italy. As the deer cannot climb the hills, Dominick has to come to the rescue to give boys and girls their presents.

The donkey symbol was so famous that in 1977, a movie later symbolized Santa’s Donkey in a television special called: Nestor The Long-Eared Christmas Donkey. Furthermore, the donkey’s name wasn’t Dominick but Spieltote.

Why is the song “Dominick the Donkey” so famous now?

Back in 1960, “Dominick the Donkey” was not that big of a hit at first. However, it was well on the road to becoming a cult classic, specifically in Italian-American households. Several years later, after a lot of words of mouth, “Dominick the Donkey” was on international headlines when a popular BBC DJ named Chris Moyles set up a movement for pushing the song onto the UK singles chart. He said:

“If we should leave Britain one thing, it should be that each Christmas, kids can listen to Dominick the Donkey song.”

That year (2011), “Dominick the Dunkey” hit number 3 on the UK singles chart. In 2014, the song was ranked as number 23 on the Holiday Digital Song Sales chart and number 69 on Billboard’s Holiday 100. In 2018, the song hit number 1 on the Comedy Digital Track Sales. Thereafter, during December 2019, this Christmas song had exceeded 21 million plays on Spotify.

Who wrote the “Dominick the Donkey” song?

“Dominick the Donkey” was written by Ray Allen, Sam Saltzberg, and Wandra Merrell. It was first sung by Lou Monte on Roulette Records in 1960. Monte was born in New York, but his parents were born in Calabria. That is why we can hear Monte’s Southern-Italian words and slang in “Dominick the Donkey” such as Paesan, Tarantell, Ciucciariell, and many others.

These words are some of the lopped-off dialect words that Southern-Italians had brought to America. Monte’s parents were immigrants, and he lost his mother when he was only two years old. Once he became an adult, he served the military during World War II. Luckily for him, he survived WWII and decided to work his way up through the Jersey club and showroom scene, using his proud Calabrian heritage. He became the King of Italian-American music and was famous in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s. Eventually, he became notoriously famous for his Italian-American Christmas song, “Dominick the Donkey” which is now playing everywhere around the world.

Interesting facts about Dominick

Monte had shared some fun facts about the donkey named Dominick who inspired the song. Indeed, Dominick the donkey wasn’t just the name of the song, but was a very nice donkey “who never kicked but loved dancing”. Once ol’ Dom began shaking its tail, the old folks — cummares (godmothers) and cumpares (godfathers) — joined the fun and danced a tarentell (a shortened word for la tarantella meaning a traditional Italian folk dance). One of the most outstanding facts is that Dominick delivered shoes and dresses that are specially made in Brooklyn. The Donkey was wearing the mayor’s derby hat as he had to look smart and sharp.

Are you looking forward to hearing the song one more time yet? To conclude our article, know that in 2012, Dominic DiFrisco, who was president emeritus of the Joint Civic Committee of Italian Americans said in an interview with Chicago Sun-Times that “To travel by donkey was universal in southern Italy, as it was in Greece. Monte is playing easy with history, but it’s a cute song. And Lou Monte was at that time one of the hottest singers in America.”

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