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

31 Comments

  1. Tere Komorowski
    July 18, 2008

    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
    July 18, 2008

    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
    December 15, 2008

    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
    December 15, 2008

    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. Paul Karpo
    April 8, 2009

    Hello, everyone!

    I wonder if Orthodox Christmas is celebrated in Spain? Do orthodox have a day off because of the Christmas in Spain?

    Reply
  6. Edu
    April 11, 2009

    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
  7. Justin Sloan
    December 17, 2009

    I LOVE ADONNIS AND KEONTE FOREVER

    Reply
  8. dIANITA
    December 29, 2009

    looking for easy format on how to do las posadas and the
    nacimiento de jesus

    Reply
  9. Clemente Quiros
    November 21, 2010

    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
  10. Carlos
    December 1, 2010

    I’m the tenth (diez) comment!!!!

    Reply
  11. Carlos
    December 1, 2010

    es mucho frío y nieva

    Reply
  12. Miguel
    December 1, 2010

    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
  13. Dice
    December 8, 2010

    can you show me a video of a christmas parade

    Reply
  14. Christiana
    December 16, 2010

    Can you tell me some interesting facts about the tradition on the shoes for Christmas?

    Reply
  15. tabitha
    January 1, 2011

    thanks for helping me with my homework so much!

    Reply
  16. de Haan
    February 1, 2011

    Can anyone send me the lyrics of this song? It’s a Spanish Christmassong for all I know.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PJRBzbcfG5k

    If you know the words, please email to dehaan78 (at) yahoo.de

    Thank you

    Reply
  17. brittany
    March 11, 2011

    could this website be any more confusing?????

    Reply
  18. Ger Benoski
    November 19, 2011

    Doing a Spanish Christmas party and need decorating ideas.
    Thank you.

    Reply
  19. Edu
    November 26, 2011

    Oliver,

    In Spain, christmas trees are usually decorated with christmas balls, tinsel garlands, tiny blinking lights (sometimes) and, of course, a star on the top 🙂 You can see an example in the spanish wikipedia article, here: http://es.wikipedia.org/wiki/%C3%81rbol_de_Navidad

    Cheers!

    Reply
  20. oliver
    November 26, 2011

    I’m trying to find out what type of decorations are typically found on a christmas tree in spain. can you help?

    Reply
  21. Rosebud
    November 26, 2011

    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
  22. Edu
    November 29, 2011

    Rosebud,

    Hmm, yes, “Silent Night” in Spanish is “Noche de Paz”, see here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S74_ocW9NhA

    Good luck!

    Reply
  23. Simona
    December 10, 2011

    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
  24. Edu
    December 11, 2011

    Simona,

    Sorry, but I never heard of those songs. I found “Buenos días, Paloma Blanca” in Youtube (lyrics included), here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6dhCLmtjFKg

    If you want to google the other songs, you should know that the correct words are “Desde el Norte al Sur” (From North to South)

    Good Luck!

    Reply
  25. Abby
    December 12, 2011

    Thank u this website helped me alot with my spanish Christmas homework!! 🙂

    Reply
  26. Edu
    December 13, 2011

    You’re very welcome, Abby! 🙂

    Reply
  27. Coco
    December 18, 2011

    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
  28. Janelle
    December 28, 2011

    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
  29. Martina, Czech Republic
    July 13, 2012

    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
  30. Edu
    July 13, 2012

    Hi, Martina,

    Yes, that is the normal way of writing questions in Spanish.

    See:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Inverted_question_and_exclamation_marks

    Cheers!

    Reply
  31. Martina, Czech Republic
    July 13, 2012

    !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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