Christmas Songs in Spanish

Singing these can help boost your vocabulary

Christmas tree in Mexico City
Christmas tree in Mexico City.

Abraham P V / Creative Commons.

Singing Christmas carols in Spanish can be an enjoyable way to put your Spanish skills to good use. On the one hand, you will practice pronunciation and learn new vocabulary, and on the other, by reading the lyrics, you can identify the parts of speech that you are already familiar with.

When and Where Do We Sing These Songs?

Christmas traditions are big in Spanish and Hispanic cultures given their Catholic heritage, and most people decorate their houses with mangers as well as with trees. The Hispanic tradition calls for the novena or posada, the nine nights before Christmas Day when you meet with friends and family, read prayers from a novenario, eat lots of good food and of course, sing many songs. These novenas take place in family homes, but some neighborhoods host them in open spaces.

This collection of seasonal songs contains some that are commonly sung in novenas but also at church during Christmas celebrations, particularly during the Holy Mass that takes place on December 24th at midnight (remember that for most Hispanics the big Christmas celebrations happen on Christmas Eve and not on Christmas Day).

Practicing Spanish Through Villancicos

Below is an index of links to popular Christmas carols in Spanish, also known as villancicos, paired with their English versions. Note that in some cases the translations listed here aren't the only ones available, so don't be surprised if the Spanish lyrics aren't the same as you've seen somewhere else or sung before. For example, "Silent Night, Holy Night" has been translated as both Noche de paz, noche de amor and Noche de luz, noche de paz. Note also that in a few cases the translations are far from literal: anyone who has tried translating songs will understand why it is so difficult, as it requires the song's meaning, rhythm, and rhyme to be conveyed in the resulting translation. Some of the carols include a grammar and vocabulary guide for classroom use or personal study.

With the exception of the English version of Los Peces en el Río (an original for this site), all these songs are in the public domain, so feel free to share them with your classroom or music group. Write down all the new vocabulary you learn, and conjugate each new verb in all the tenses you already know. There is no better way to learn than through catchy songs!

Spanish Vocabulary Related to Christmas Songs

As you learn these songs or learn about Christmas traditions in Spain and Latin America, here are some words you may come across:

  • An angel is an ángel.
  • A Christmas tree is an árbol de Navidad.
  • Jesús is the Spanish name for Jesus and remains in common use.
  • María and José are the Spanish names for Mary and Joseph.
  • Navidad, related to the verb nacer (to be born), is the word for Christmas. It is capitalized in standard Spanish, although not always in popular use. The adjective form is navideño.
  • Nochebuena, literally meaning "Good Night," refers to Christmas Eve.
  • The most common name used for Santa Clause is Papá Noel (literally Father Christmas), although others are also used. They include San Nicolás (St. Nicolas), Santa Claus, and Viejecito Pascuero (Old Man Christmas).
  • A shepherd is a pastor. The word is a cognate of the English "pastor," coming from the idea that a pastor has a "flock" under his or her care.
  • Although there are several words for "manger," the Spanish word for a animal feeding trough used most often at Christmas is pesebre.