Spanish Christmas Words

Christmas are just around the corner, and I thought that perhaps you are wondering which is the Spanish word for, say, “carol”, “gingerbread” or “Santa Claus”.

So, in this article we will go through the different Spanish Christmas traditions. That way, you will learn the most important Spanish words related to Christmas in Spain, and at the same time you will enrich your culture. Two birds with one stone!

  • Navidad. Christmas.
  • feliz Navidad. merry Christmas. Literally, happy Christmas.
  • año nuevo. new year.
  • Papá Noel, Santa Claus. Santa Claus.
  • celebrar. to celebrate.
  • desear. to wish.
  • deseos. whishes.
  • (la) paz. peace.
  • (el) amor. love.

Spanish Christmas Songs

If there is one thing typical of Spanish Christmas, it is, of course, Christmas songs. When Christmas approaches, there is no single child in Spain that does not learn to sing songs like “Los Peces en el Río” or “Arre borriquito” at school.

Maybe the most typical (and, in my opinion, beautiful) Spanish Christmas song is “Campanas de Belén”. For your pleasure, you can hear it in this video:

Campanas de Belén Lyrics

A bell over a bell
and over a bell, one.
Lean out of the window,
you’ll see the Child in the crib.

Bethlehem, Bells of Bethlehem,
that angels play,
¿what news do you bring to me?

Rounded up your flock,
where are you going, little shepherd?
I’m carrying to the Stable of Bethlehem
cottage cheese, lard and wine.

Bethlehem, …

A bell over a bell
and over a bell, two.
Lean out of the window,
because God is being born.

Bethlehem, …

Walking at midnight,
Where are you walking to, shepherd?
I’m going to take to the Child who is born,
as well as to God, my heart.

Bethlehem, …

A bell over a bell
and over a bell, three,
on a cross, at this time,
the Child will suffer.

Bethlehem, …

If the stars still light,
Shepherd, where do you want to go?
I’m going to the stable, in case the Child
will let me die along with him

Bethlehem, …

Campana sobre campana
y sobre campana, una,
asómate a la ventana,
verás al Niño en la cuna.

Belén, campanas de Belén
que los ángeles tocan,
¿Qué nuevas nos traéis?

Recogido tu rebaño,
¿adónde vas, pastorcito?
Voy a llevar al portal
requesón, manteca y vino.

Belén, …

Campana sobre campana,
y sobre campana, dos,
asómate a la ventana,
porque está naciendo Dios.

Belén, …

Caminando a Medianoche
¿dónde caminas pastor?
Le llevo al Niño que nace,
como a Dios, mi corazón.

Belén, …

Campana sobre campana,
y sobre campana, tres,
en esta cruz a esta hora
el Niño va a padecer.

Belén, …

Si aún las estrellas alumbran,
pastor ¿dónde quieres ir?
Voy al portal por si el Niño
con él me deja morir.

Belén, …

  • Belén. Bethlehem.
  • campana. Bell.
  • Dios. God.
  • el Niño Jesús. Child Jesus.
  • la Virgen María. Virgin Mary.
  • San José. Saint Joseph.
  • (el) ángel. angel.
  • (la) cruz. cross.
  • estrella. star.
  • pastor. shepherd.
  • cantar. to sing.
  • canción. song.
  • villancico. carol.
  • tocar (un instrumento). to play (an instrument).
  • pandereta. tambourine.
  • zambomba. Spanish friction drum.

Note: for more Spanish Christmas song lyrics, at the end of this article you will find interesting related resources.

Christmas Decorations

Spanish Christmas decoration
Another popular Spanish Christmas tradition are the decorations, like the Christmas tree, the street Christmas lights and, of course, the nativity scenes. A nativity scene is a depiction of the birth of Jesus, generally with figurines. It depicts at least the Child Jesus in the crib, the Virgin Mary and St. Joseph, but usually depicts also a lot of other figurines, such as shepherds, sheeps, villagers, the Three Wise Men on camels, etc.

  • adornar. to decorate.
  • adornos navideños. Christmas ornaments.
  • (el) pesebre. crib (literally, manger).
  • cuna. crib, cradle.
  • (el) belénnacimiento or pesebre. Nativity scene.
  •  figurita. figurine.
  • (el) árbol de Navidad. Christmas tree.
  • Los Reyes Magos. The Three Wise Men.
  • Natividad. Nativity.
  • Portal de Belén. Stable of Bethlehem.
  • oveja. sheep.
  • camello. camel.
  • aldeano. villager.

Note: Belén and Natividad are also a female given names.

Spanish Christmas Food

Hmmm… This one is my favorite. Have you ever tasted the chocolate turrón? No? Oh, poor you!

  • turrón. Nougat candy, usually made with honey, sugar, egg white and almonds, and shaped into rectangular tablets.
  • mantecado. Traditional Spanish Christmas sweet made mainly with lard, flour and sugar. Other common ingredients include cinnamon and sesame seeds.
  • polvorón. Basically it is a kind of mantecado, oval shaped, and usually covered with powdered sugar.
  • rosco de reyes. king cake. On January 6, it is a tradition to eat a king cake with a small trinket hidden inside. The person who finds it will have a lucky year.
  • pan de jengibre. gingerbread (actually, not very common in Spain).
  • mazapán. marzipan.
  • chocolate. chocolate.
  • champán. champagne.
  • cava. Another kind of sparkling wine, like champagne, but it is produced in Spain, mainly in Catalonia.

Other Spanish Christmas Traditions

  • Christmas Eve. The night before Christmas, it is customary to organize family reunions, in order to have a dinner and celebrate together. A midnight Mass called Misa del Gallo (Rooster’s Mass) is also celebrated to commemorate the birth of Jesus.
  • Día de los Santos Inocentes (Innocent Saints’ Day). On December 28, we commemorate the Biblical Herod’s slaughter of the innocents. On this day, all kinds of hoaxes and jokes (called inocentadas) are committed on friends and relatives. In this sense, it is the equivalent of the April Fools’ Day.
  • New Year’s Eve. This day is also celebrated with a family dinner. At midnight, it is tradition to eat twelve grapes, one on each chime of the clock (well, as you can imagine, not everyone succeeds in doing that). Next, everybody drinks a toast, with champagne or cava, and the party goes on as much as we can take, specially young people.
  • Epiphany. Spanish children do not address their letters to Santa Claus, but to the Three Wise Men. On January 5, big parades are organized, in which the Three Kings participate in person, even though they have a lot of work to do that night. By the way, some gossips are saying that the Three Wise Men are actually the parents, but that is not true (not exactly).
  • Holidays. December 25 and January 1 and 6 are Spanish national holidays.

Related Spanish words:

  • Nochebuena. Christmas Eve (literally, Good-Night).
  • Nochevieja. New Year’s Eve (Old-Night).
  • Epifanía. Epiphany.
  • fiesta, día festivo/feriado. holiday.
  • fiesta. party.
  • vacaciones. vacation, holiday.
  • regalo. present.
  • carta. letter (correspondence).
  • tradición. tradition.
  • tradicional. traditional.
  • tarjeta de felicitación. greeting card.
  • tarjeta de navidad. Christmas card.

Oddly enough, another Spanish word for “Christmas card” is simply christmas.

For more information

32 thoughts on “Spanish Christmas Words

  1. Tere Komorowski

    There’s a song in English called The Little Drummer Boy and I believe it’s called “EL TAMBORIN” in Spanish. Where can I find the lyrics for it in SPANISH.

    Muchas gracias! Teresita

    Reply
  2. Edu

    Teresita,

    The song is better known as “El Tamborilero”. Here you are:

    El camino que lleva a Belén
    baja hasta el valle que la nieve cubrió.
    Los pastorcitos quieren ver a su Rey,
    le traen regalos en su humilde zurrón,
    ropopompom, ropopompom.
    Ha nacido en un portal de Belén,
    el Niño Dios.

    Yo quisiera poner a tus pies,
    algún presente que te agrade, Señor;
    más tu ya sabes que soy pobre también,
    y no poseo más que un viejo tambor:
    ropopompom, ropopompom…
    En tu honor frente al portal tocaré
    con mi tambor.

    El camino que lleva a Belén,
    yo voy tocando con mi viejo tambor.
    Nada mejor hay que te pueda ofrecer,
    su ronco acento es un canto de amor,
    ropopompom, ropopompom.
    Cuando Dios me vió tocando ante Él,
    me sonrió…

    You can hear it at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VCwtAnicVF0

    De nada ;)

    Reply
  3. Laureen

    I am looking for how to make the lighted candle bags that line the sidewalks — I would call them iluminatas. But that obviously is not spelled correctly.

    Can you help me find the directions, information?

    Please email me.

    Reply
  4. Laureen

    I am looking for directions on how to make the lighted candle bags that line the sidewalk. I would call them iluminatas, but that obviously is not spelled correctly.

    Can you help me find directions, information?

    Please email me.

    Reply
  5. Edu

    Hello, Paul Karpo,

    A day off? Well, there is not a day off specifically for Orthodox Christmas. At least, not officially. Anyway, I don’t know much about Orthodox Christianity. In Spain it is not very widespread (about 2% of the population, according to Wikipedia).

    Reply
  6. Clemente Quiros

    I would like to find out the english names of christmas carols that correspond to them in spanish. For instance the little drummer boy is in spanish el tamborilero. I need the english name of the spanish “pastores venid” and if possible the lyrics. Also the following if posible: “Alegria, Alegria”, “Vamos pastores vamos”, “El niño Dios ha nacido”, “Hoy en la Tierra”, “Arbolito, Arbolito”, “Campanitas navideñas”, “Arre burriquito”, “El burrito Sabanero”.

    Reply
  7. Miguel

    This is interisante (fascinating) to me because I am a Spanish student and I have always wanted to know some things about Spanish culture.

    Reply
  8. Rosebud

    I want to make a Spanish and English MIX of “Silent Night” but I’m just not too sure which lines (lyrics) do I need to use to go with the music part of the song, and that it makes sense. Has anyone done this before? I need it right away because my little students need time to learn it. Thanks

    Reply
  9. Simona

    I do not speak spanish and trying to surprise my family with the lyrics and words to the following songs we used to sing at Christmas: Des Del Norte Al Sur, Gracias a Jose Gracias a Maria, Buenos Dias Paloma Blanca. I think it used to be a play but not sure? Please help…The family book is lost and I want to replace it but having trouble due to not speaking spanish.

    Reply
  10. Coco

    Hello,

    I am looking for what La Novena is, but not having any luck. However, this website is great with everything about Spanish Christmas. Just don’t forget about La Novena.

    Reply
  11. Janelle

    I am trying to locate a songbook (piano and words) of Spanish Christmas Songs, specifically Campanas de Belén and Mi Burrito Sabanero. Can you help?

    Reply
  12. Martina, Czech Republic

    Hi:-),

    I have a question: Why do you use the question mark like this:

    ¿Qué nuevas nos traéis?

    I mean – why do you use the question mark at the beginning of a sentence and why do you use it THE OTHER WAY ROUND?

    And is that normal in a casual writing or only in songs?

    Thank you!!

    :-)

    Martina

    Reply
  13. Martina, Czech Republic

    !Hi!

    !Thank you very much!!:-)

    !I have just read it, I was amazed reading that, and I also learned the same thing about exclamation marks! ;-)

    Have a very nice summer time :-)

    Martina

    Reply
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