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Lullabies from Smithsonian Folkways

A lullaby is a song sung to a child in order to ease them into sleep or soothe them, often featuring simple melodies and repeating lyrics. They can be found in almost every culture and have been used for centuries. Possibly the oldest surviving lullaby, Lalla, Lalla, Lalla, aut dormi, aut lacte, was written by Roman poet Persius, around the 1st century AD. The word “lullaby” may have come from a combination of “lulu”, a sound made to soothe the child, and the word “bye.” Another origin may be from the “Lillith”, a demon that was said to steal children in the night according to Jewish mythology. Parents put up amulets that said “Lillith-abi” or “Lillith Be gone” in Hebrew, to protect their children. Listen to lullabies from around the world from the Smithsonian Folkways collection.