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Spanish Christmas Carols

A very important element of Christmas tradition is the Christmas carol. Here you will find out about the origins of Spanish Christmas carols, some of their characteristics, and of course, the words to several Christmas carols so that you can practice Spanish while singing this holiday season.

Christmas carols do not appear in written form until the 16th century, although many are much older. The name for Christmas carols in Spanish "villancicos" is derived from "villanus" which means neighbor in a villa or village; Spanish dance from the 16th and 17th century, called such because it imitates rustic traditions. Villancicos, or Christmas carols, were very popular among noblemen and plebeians alike in the Middle Ages and the Spanish Golden Age. 

Spanish Christmas carols are the simplest manifestation of popular Castilian lyric. They consist of 2 parts: 

· Refrain: two, three or four lines beginning the song which repeat at the end of each verse.

· Verse: groups of lines which together develop the theme of the refrain.

Nowadays Christmas songs in Spain contain themes related to the Christmas season, but influenced by popular culture, they are very festive and are usually sung with musical accompaniment such as

pandereta ->tambourine

zambomba -> drum-like folk instrument

almirez -> metallic mortar traditionally used in popular Andalusian folk music. Without actually being a musical instrument, it is an object that is hit rhythmically and is used to accompany a song in improvised situations

The most frequent themes are: the birth of baby Jesus, the Virgin Mary performing normal activities of a mother, the adoration of the Three Kings, the visit of the shepherds to the manger, the pure happiness of all living things for the birth of the Son of God, the joy of Christmas. . .

Spanish Christmas songs are very much related to the so-called "aguinaldo" which is a gift of money or in kind, during the holiday season. The "aguinaldo" of nuts or almonds common in medieval time has transformed into what's know today in Spain as the "paga extra" or extra amount of money given to employees at Christmas time.

Traditionally public and private employees (garbage collectors, mail delivery employees, security guards and other servants) were the first to start receiving a small show of gratitude in the form of a gift or money, as a way to wish a Merry Christmas to those that served one in some form. 

Another system of gathering the "aguinaldo" has been, and still exists in certain places, is that groups of people or children go from house to house and through the streets wishing Merry Christmas to neighbors and singing Christmas carols in exchange for coins or Christmas sweets.


The words to some Spanish Christmas songs



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