Christmas carols in Spanish: Significance and tradition

As the season of Christmas approaches, many will encounter Christmas carols. These singers will demonstrate the traditional form of celebrating that the season is approaching. Carols originated during the XV (15th) and XVII (17th) centuries. These Christmas carols were a poetic form usually found in Spain, Portugal, and Spanish speaking countries. Later, the carols were found in church songs and lyrics, which many were associated with the celebration of Christmas.

These types of musical composition have lyrical rhyming and usually tell a story or honor a specific figure. Also, people sang them from the village or town to spread the word that the season of Christmas was approaching. Nowadays, we encounter carols in popular songs like “Come Little Shepherds/Venid, pastorcitos”, “Andean Carol/Villancico andino”, “Tonight is Christmas Night/Esta Noche es Nochebuena”, “Joy to the World/Felicidad al Mundo”, “O Holy Night/Noche Sagrada”, “Jingle Bells/Cascabel”, and many more. Let’s take a look at some examples of Christmas carols:


“Cascabel” (Jingle Bells)

“Cascabel, cascabel, …

Este día en trineo, vamos a pasear. 


Navidad, Navidad, hoy es Navidad

Es un día de alegría y felicidad.”


You might be surprised that there are some differences to the English version. But you can still tune the lyrics to the English “Jingle Bells” song. Also, notice the simple rhyming -dad, and in the syllables -ear. This carol can be found in the audio book “Feliz Navidad/Teach Me series” by Anna Maria Mahoney. This is an excellent source of Hispanic heritage of traditional songs, recipes, and brief history. Another wonderful song by Mahoney is


“Noche de Paz” (Silent Night). 

“Noche de paz, noche … 

Todo duerme en rededor.

Todos sueñan …

Bella anunciando al Niño Jesús. 

Brilla la …, 

Brilla la estrella de paz.”

Christmas books in Spanish


Just remember that most of these lyrics were originated a long time and keep the original wording.

In “Villancico andino/Andean Carol”, you’ll find a wonderful story about the Nativity to Doña María. Let’s take a look:


“Señora Doña María

yo vengo desde muy lejos

y a su niñito …

un … 


Señora Doña María

yo vengo de las llanuras

y a su niñito …

una frutita madura. 


Señora Doña María

de muy lejos vengo aquí

y a su niñito …

un gallo quiquiriquí. 


Señora Doña María

deje acercarme …

y sin despertar al nino

besarle los piececitos. 


Señora Doña María

cogollito …

encárguele a su niñito

que no se olvide de mí.”

Can you figure out the rhyming in this carol? Hint: rhyming words that end in -í. You can find more wonderful Christmas carols and more nursery rhymes in “Mama Goose: A Latino Nursery Treasury” by Alma Flor Ada and F. Isabel Campoy. You can find these delightful books at your local library, bookstore, or Amazon.

Books on Amazon

Barbara Mascareno

Barbara is an educational writer, teacher, and instructional designer. She loves to write K-12 education content, teaching strategies, bilingual education approaches, and foreign language.

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