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Episode 82: Return of the Merry Christmas Song Sampler!

Are you ready to get into the Christmas spirit? It's become an annual tradition to talk about 10 Spanish Christmas songs (see Episode 64 and Episode 42), and despite the chaos of my life, this year is no different! So whether you enjoy your canciones navideñas in moderation or at full blast all month, here are some ideas to add to your Christmas playlist. :D

While normally I would not include a cultural tip in this type of episode, to make up for my extreme tardiness, we will finish our cultural tip mini-series on Puerto Rico by looking at 3 of their unique and interesting cultural traditions! I am so, so, so sorry you guys that this episode is so late. I severely underestimated how much work we would be doing to get our house back to normal. I am relieved, and so, so grateful, to be able to say that things are finally in an almost manageable and comfortable state and that I finally have my recording setup back! So hopefully the sound is good; I have a feeling I'm going to need to tweak things as we go! But we are still staying up super late trying to work on things, and we only just got our Christmas tree up today. But a t least we got it before Christmas, right? :D Anyways, that's enough of a pity party; life is crazy, but it is good. Entonces, ¡vámanos!


10 Festive Spanish Christmas Songs

As always, I've tried to compile a list that has a bit of everything for everyone. Let's start with some of the classic villancicos, shall we?


Here are 4 classic Christmas carols in Spanish!

1. Santa La Noche by Grupo Vocal Adoracion

This is my absolute favorite Christmas carol! It's the Spanish version of O Holy Night, and it is so beautiful, and so powerful. I love the song's building crescendo, and there are few things more enjoyable to listen to than a well-sung version of this song. I loved the harmonies that this acappelo group from Mexico achieves. Simply beautiful! There is also a lovely solo version with Sarah Jerez (they call the song Oh Noche Divina), or a more modernized version (they combine the carol with other songs, which generally I don't like - and is why it's not the main feature for this particular carol - but I gotta say, Majo y Dan really did a lovely job, so I'll share it here as well).

Here are the lyrics to the Spanish version of this classic Christmas carol, as well as the lyrics to the English version.

2. La Marimorena by Patylu

If you have small children, Patylu is a great resource for kids songs. I haven't listened to all of her songs, and quite frankly, when it comes to your kids, I highly recommend always screening things first before letting them watch or listen to them. But if you need a place to start, Patylu is great!

You can find lyrics to this traditional villancico here, on Mama Lisa's World, as well as the English translations and several notes and extra verses! (I love Mama Lisa's World! She has so much good information, and all in one place!) It seems that there is some confusion on where this particular villancico comes from, with some saying la marimorena refers to a type of party, and others, such as Life Cuenca, saying it refers to a gal who was a key player in a very rambunctious and noisy Christmas celebration that interrupted the important Christmas Eve Mass (la Misa del Gallo). Which story is correct? Who knows! And while this traditional Spanish Christmas carol doesn't make a ton of sense, it's still beloved in the Hispanic world and is fun to sing. (Kind of like our We Wish You A Merry Christmas - does it really make sense for carolers to go around and demand food? Not really. But it's still fun to sing! :D)

3. Din Don Dan by PONTEVEDRATV

This song is a simple one, with lyrics you can easily learn. It basically summarizes the entire Biblical story of Christmas, so is a great one for kids to learn. I selected this particular YouTube video to share because it has the lyrics in Spanish on-screen, but also because it has numerous scenes of different belenes, which are the Spanish version of our nativity scenes. Only, they are much, much cooler! Instead of creating one scene with a nativity, a belén has multiple scenes, full of different houses, people, even moving items and lights! You can basically make your own biblical city, or Bethlehem (hence the name), depending on how invested in it you want to be! I love this tradition and am actually slowly creating my own belén, which I add to every year at Christmas. I finally have almost all of the nativity scene completed, so this year I added a two-story house. After Christmas, I'll move Mary, Joseph, and the baby Jesus to the house and will bring the 3 wise men there on January 6th to celebrate 3 King's Day!

4. Navidad, Navidad by Myriam Hernandez

There are at least two versions of the English classic, Jingle Bells. There is this one, Navidad, Navidad and then there is Cascabel. The second one, Cascabel, is more in keeping with the original song (cascabel means bell or sleigh bell), although the lyrics for the main chorus are completely different. Instead of focusing on a sleigh ride (which, perhaps, would be very hard culturally to translate into a different language and culture), it focuses on the holy family and Christmas Eve. But I also like how happy and joyful Navidad, Navidad is, which still has a religious focus but also is just a happy celebration of Christmas Day. Besides, Myriam Hernandez has a beautiful voice!

Classic Moderns

Let's switch over to those classic Christmas songs that you hear playing all the time during the month of December, but which aren't actually all that old.

5. Navidad Rock by Tatiana

This is another Childrens song artist that I love (although she does have adult songs, too, so be careful when sharing with children! She had a solo career for a while). This is Tatiana! And what better segue into Classic Modern Christmas songs than the Spanish version of Jingle Bell Rock? If you want the Spanish lyrics, click on the notes in the YouTube video.

6. Todo Lo Que Quiero Eres Tú (Mariah Carey cover of All I Want for Christmas is You) by Gret Rocha

Who hasn't heard this song played over and over and over again in English? Imagine my surprise when I found this cover in Spanish by Gret Rocha, who is a popular Mexican youtuber. I just discovered her, so I don't know much about her, other than that she is a vocal coach who does reaction videos to various singers and also does Spanish covers. I love the videos done in English by Hannah Bayles, who is another voice coach, so I am excited to see what Gret Rocha's videos are like!

I also found a version by Carolina Ross, a Mexican singer who was on La Voz. Just in case you're looking for more! I also just discovered her, and I love how dulce and smooth her voice is.

7. Un Año Más by Multiple Artists (Carlos Rivera, Reik, Pandora, Matisse, Natalia Jiménez, Yuri, Ventino, Arthur Hanlon, and Manuel Medrano)

While technically this song is about the coming New Year, it is associated with Christmas time and can be sung during the holidays. I really liked this particular version because it lets you see a wide range of different Spanish artists that you can check out at your own leisure and decide whether you like them or not. While the YouTube video has the Spanish lyrics, you can find a translation in English here (although it is for a slightly different version sung by a different artist, so bear that in mind).

Modern and New(ish)

And lastly, but certainly not least, let's talk about some newer Christmas songs!

8. A Este Lado del Cristal by La Oreja de Van Gogh

If you want to hear the unique, Castilian accent of Spain, this song is fantastic for that! But I also love the simplicity of it, the sweet melody, and the overall message. Yes, things don't always go as we want, but it's important to remember and be grateful for the important things we do have, rather than focusing on what we don't.

After all, it is so easy to get so focused on the commercialism and expectations of the Christmas season that we forget what it is really all about: showing love and gratefulness to our family and friends, and - most importantly - remembering God's love for us made incarnate in the baby Jesus, who came in the humblest of forms with the intent of dying for our sins. When I listened to this song, A Este Lado del Cristal, I wasn't expecting to be brought down such a philosophical path. Well done, La Oreja de Van Gogh! (I've listened to a few of their other songs, and I have to say, I have thoroughly enjoyed getting to hear more of their music! They seem to be sweet and soft, with gentle melodies and heart-tugging lyrics. I'm a fan.)

Click here for the lyrics in Spanish and with the English translation (a fairly decent translation).

9. En Navidad by CD9

The video has the Spanish lyrics, but I was not able to find any site translations (and as we all know, I do not have time to translate all of these songs, especially considering how I barely got this episode out). Essentially, the song is just a warm, grateful Merry Christmas to their listeners. I'd never heard of this Mexican boy band before I researched this episode, and while the song itself is no masterpiece by any stretch of the imagination :D, it is a fun, energetic, pop Christmas song. Something you can listen to when you're tired of listening to the numerous soulful Christmas songs and you just need something upbeat.

10. Volvernos a Encontrar by Ventino

I really enjoy Ventino's Christmas songs - last year, we talked about their song Ya Es Navidad. And this year I wanted to include Volvernos a Encontrar. You can click here for the lyrics in Spanish and with the English translation. This love song is like a sweeter, slower, and less belt-it-out version of All I Want for Christmas Is You.

And that wraps up our Merry Christmas Song Sampler for 2022! Thankfully, I was able to get this done and out at least a week before Christmas, or almost a week before Christmas, right? Thank you for all of your patience as we work through these crazy times. I have one more scheduled podcast episode for the year, so hopefully I can get that out in the next couple of weeks. In that episode, I'll let you know what my plans are for maternity leave and 2023.

And just in case I can't get the last episode of the year out before Christmas, which quite frankly is looking like that is a no-go, may you all have a lovely, blessed, wonderful, and merry Christmas!

Remember, learning a language is a lifelong journey.

¡Aprovéchalo, Disfrútalo y Compártelo!


Cultural Tip: Puerto Rico

Unique Traditions

This island has quite a lot of cool and unique traditions and customs - we could, and maybe we will, spend an entire episode on just the Puerto Rican dialect - but today we'll focus on three really interesting Borcuan traditions !

1. Parrandas

A parranda is similar to our idea of Christmas carolers, as in it consists of a group of people (parranderos) going around and serenading others with music. But it is also significantly different! For starters, the whole point of the event is to surprise a household with their gift of singing aguinaldos, the Boricuan way of referring to villancicos, to the accompaniment of traditional instruments (think tambourines, guitars, maracas, and more!) so they tend to gather around the front of the house after 10:00 at night! Those awoken by this asalto navideño are then expected to let the parranderos inside and to offer refreshments before joining the parranda and heading to the next house. Once the group reaches their final destination, they'll stay there and enjoy the party until sunrise. Like I said, just a little different than our Christmas caroling. But it sounds really fun! Although...I don't know if I would appreciate being woken up these days. So, you know, maybe I'm a Scrooge. :D

2. A Really Long Christmas Season

While it may or may not be the country with the longest Christmas (the Philippines might have it beat), Puerto Rico definitely enjoys this holiday season! For islanders, the season is kicked off with Discovery Day on November 19th, and it doesn't officially end until January 20th with the end of the San Sebastián Festival.

So what does that look like? After Christmas and New Year, Puerto Ricans celebrate Three Kings Day on January 6th (also known as Epiphany, this day celebrates the wisemen who came to honor the newborn Jesus Christ). After this, they have las Octavitas, which are 8 days of parrandas and celebrations. Then they have Las Fiestas de la Calle San Sebastián, which is a big cultural, somewhat religious festival that takes place over two weekends. There are vendors and artisans, processions, music, dancing, etc. It's pretty cool! Check out the video below by InstintoPR to get a quick visual of what this fiesta looks like, as well as a great sampling of the Puerto Rican Spanish accent! (The video is completely in Spanish!)

(Side note: The Puerto Rican accent is one of the hardest I have ever come across. I have in-laws from Puerto Rico, and we sometimes struggle to communicate because our Spanish accents are so different. But one of the best deep dives into Boricua that I have ever seen was done by Marissa Blaszko with Relearn a Language. If you're interested in learning more about this interesting dialect, or plan on visiting the island, check it out!)

3. Special Christmas Dishes

Normally, I would only do one dish for this section, but I am feeling guilty as all get out for how late this episode has been (and consequently, how late the next episode might be), so I'm trying to add just a little bit more to this episode as I can. So here are some cool (and hopefully delicious!) traditional Puerto Rican Christmas dishes!

  • Coquito - kind of like the Puerto Rican version of eggnog, this creamy drink is made with various forms of milk (sweetened and evaporated), cream of coconut, rum, and spices. And don't worry, if you need a virgin version of coquito (ahem, that would be me), then you just use coconut milk and rum extract instead. I found a food blog called The Noshery that is run by a native Puerto Rican - you can check out her recipe here - and more variations (i.e., chocolate and guava, which is very intriguing) from Discover Puerto Rico here.

  • Tembleque - this is a coconut pudding, of sorts. More like a cross between pudding and flan. Meseidy from The Noshery also has a recipe for this tasty looking treat!

  • Pasteles - these look like Tamales, but the ingredients are waaaay more complex! I don't have the capacity this year to even think about trying to make these, but perhaps in future years...? They look really interesting! So please, if you do make them, let me know how it goes! Of course, Meseidy also had a recipe for these, so check it out here! (Guys, I have a problem; I definitely signed up for her food blog updates! I am realizing that maybe these cultural tips are going to fill up my Inbox, as I keep finding really cool food blogs to follow! :D)

  • Mallorcas - Pan de Mallorca is Puerto Rico's version of the Ensaïmades of the island of Majorca. It's a sweet, soft bread that almost looks like a seashell and is made with a bunch of eggs! As someone who craves gluten during pregnancy, I really want to make these! Check out Meseidy's recipe for them here. But if you would like to try a different recipe, or a different food blog, there's also this one from Marta Rivera for And I do appreciate that name; shout out to all of the Jane Austen fans out there!



Intro and Closing Music by Master_Service from Fiverr

Cultural Tip Transition Music edited from song by JuliusH from Pixabay

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