“Ay, Jing-a-di-jing hee haw hee haw,
It’s Dominick the Donkey
Jing-a-di-jing hee haw hee haw
The Italian Christmas Donkey
Have you ever heard this song? This is Dominick the Donkey, a song that’s playing again and again during the Christmas holidays. Everyone loves this song because it is easy to sing along with the family during the holiday season. Moreover, it always boosts the energy at a party and makes us smile. Due to its catchy lyrics, this song became widely famous and one of the significant symbols of Christmas Eve, especially for those hailing from northern New Jersey. In this article, we will reveal the origin story behind the lovely Dominick the Donkey song and all the other fun facts surrounding it.
What’s the Origin of the Dominick the Donkey song?
Dominick the Donkey is written by the following trio songwriters: Richard Allen, Sam Saltzberg, and Lou Monte, and was originally sung by Lou Monte in 1960 on Roulette Records. Lou Monte was an Italian-American singer and guitarist best known for many Italian-themed hit songs.
No one ever imagined that a funny Christmas song could achieve such great success. Once it got released to the public, Dominick the Donkey became incredibly famous because of its novelty and comedy tone. As proof of its success, the song was ranked at No.14 in Billboard’s “Bubbling under the Hot 100” list in December 1960.
Why did the Dominick the Donkey song become so popular?
50 years after its initial release, Dominick the Donkey was re-released onto Amazon on Dexterity Records. The new version was quite similar to the original one, except for the spelling of “Dominick” which was changed to “Dominic” to make it look more contemporary.
As a well-known symbol of Christmas, the song was also listed in many Christmas compilation albums such as:
- “Volume 2 of the Ultimate Christmas album series” produced by Collectables Records in 2010
- ”Merry Xmas 2011 album” by Cinquenta Música in 2011
Besides, the song was chosen to become part of many television shows or sitcoms like “Nestor, the Long-Eared Christmas Donkey”, “Family Guy”, and many others.
Not only was it a sensation in the United States, but Dominick the Donkey became extremely popular in the United Kingdom. In 2011, the song reached No.2 on the British iTunes chart for the most downloaded song and ranked No.3 on the UK Singles Chart at the same time.
What do the Dominic the Donkey lyrics are about?
Dominick the Donkey is always beginning with “hee-haw, hee-haw”, a donkey sound, along with a ring-ring jingle in the background which suits perfectly with the holidays.
This beloved Christmas song tells a story of a little donkey, named Dominick, who has a gentle-heart and never kicks but loves to dance. He promises to help Santa Claus distribute gifts to all children across the country.
That said, you might be wondering why Santa needs the donkey’s help? The answer to that is quite funny: it’s because his reindeers cannot climb Italy’s hills! Of course!
While listening to the song, you will hear some weird words that you might not understand.
Indeed, the lyrics are a mix of Sicilian dialect and English. So, let us explain what do these words mean:
“When Santa visits his paisans…”
– Paisans means fellow countrywomen and men.
“Cummares’ and Cumpare’s, Do the dance a tarantella…’
– Cumpare means friend in this dialect
– A tarantella is an abbreviation of “la tarantella” which is a popular Italian folk dance.
”When San’a Nicola’ comes to town, And brings u ciucciariello…”
– San’a Nicola is a dialect word for Saint Nicholas, also known as ‘Santa Claus’.
– O ciucciariello refers to the little donkey.
Mixing Italian dialect to the song’s lyrics was risky but Lou Monte pulled it off brilliantly. Italian-Americans fans were amazed and happy that such a famous song was sharing their culture with the public.
Dominick the Donkey: Pride of Italian-Americans
Although Dominick the Donkey seems like a silly funny song for kids, in fact, it is related to a significant political issue of that time. In 1960, Ethnic pride became an important social issue in the same period of the emergence of the Civil Rights movement in the United States. Moreover, Italian-Americans back then were treated as outsiders in the United States and experienced social ostracization in society.
Lou Monte, one of the songwriters of Dominick the Donkey, was raised in an Italian family in the United States so he had learned and loved all the inside Italian gags. Besides, he understood how difficult it was for immigrants to live there. Despite all this, he was still proud to present his native culture to the public. He decided to integrate various Italian slang words in his songs in a humorous way to spread Italian love all around the globe.
Nobody can deny that Dominick the Donkey has become an immortal Christmas song. It will surely be sung from December to January for many years to come. Well, that’s it for today, now sing along to the Donkey song, Hee Haw!