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  • Writer's pictureMaría Molina

Spanish vocabulary - Christmas

Updated: Dec 30, 2023

As in all countries, the celebration of Christmas in Spain follows its own customs, although in this globalized world icons such as elves or Santa Claus have spread, which have no local tradition, although they are an excellent commercial claim.


In learning Spanish, as in other languages, more and more attention is paid to the cultural component. In this post I will present you with Christmas vocabulary, which will give you the opportunity to learn how these dates are traditionally celebrated in my country. Some of these traditions are common to other Spanish-speaking countries.


BELÉN, NACIMIENTO, PORTAL, PESEBRE

All these words are synonymous and define a representation, with figures, of scenes related to the birth of Jesus, which is exhibited in houses, churches, shop windows, and institutions during the Christmas period.


Me gusta mucho ir con mis hijos a ver belenes.

En mi casa montamos un gran portal todos los años.



The most represented scenes are:

  • The one that is usually called mystery (misterio), which is made up of the newborn Baby Jesus (Niño Jesús), the Virgin Mary (Virgen María) and Saint Joseph (San José). On many occasions they are accompanied by a mule (mula) and an ox (buey) that, according to tradition, warmed the newborn with their breath.

  • The Three Wise Men (Reyes Magos) who either approach following a star (estrella) that indicates the birthplace, or else adore the Child and give him gifts.

  • The Annunciation to the shepherds (Anunciación a los pastores) where an angel (ángel) is represented who is informing some shepherds about the happy news

  • Herod's castle (Castillo de Herodes)

Added to this are everything that people imagine that could be happening in the town of Bethlehem of Judea regardless of the foundation, of course.


En el escaparate de la farmacia han puesto un misterio muy bonito

Ten cuidado. Vas a romper el ángel de la Anunciación


VILLANCICOS


They are popular songs that are sung at Christmas, as in other countries with a Christian tradition.


The most important characteristics of Christmas carols (villancicos) in Spain are:

  • The letter refers to the birth of Jesus. Watch this Christmas carol, which is one of the most popular

Veinticinco de Diciembre, fum, fum, fum. Veinticinco de Diciembre, fum, fum, fum.

Un Niñito muy bonito ha nacido en el portal con su carita de rosa parece una flor hermosa fum, fum, fum

Venid, venid, pastorcillos fum, fum, fum. Venid, venid, pastorcillos fum, fum, fum.

Venid con la pandereta y castañuelas al porta a adorar al Rey del Cielo que ha aparecido en el suelo fum, fum, fum

  • They are accompanied by popular instruments: The tambourine (pandereta) and the zambomba.

Los villancicos sin pandereta no suenan igual

He visto a un grupo cantando villancicos en la calle


NOCHEBUENA y NAVIDAD


Nochebuena is Christmas Eve, i.e. the night of 24 December. Although Christmas (Navidad) is understood to be a broad period, Christmas (Navidad) is on 25 December. Depending on the regions of Spain and family traditions, either Christmas Eve dinner or Christmas lunch, or both, are big family occasions.


What is eaten on these days? Well, it depends on the area, but the main dishes are sea bream (besugo), turkey (pavo), lamb (cordero), kid (cabrito) or suckling pig (cochinillo), accompanied by seafood (marisco). But perhaps the most typical are the desserts: nougat (turrón), marzipan (mazapán), polvorones and mantecados.

  • Mantecado: Typical sweet that is characterized by being kneaded with lard.

  • Polvorón: small cake of flour, butter and sugar that crumbles into powder when eaten.

  • Turrón: Dough of honey and peeled and toasted almonds that is given the final shape of a rectangular tablet.

  • Mazapán: almond, sugar and egg candy that is usually given different shapes (animals, objects)

Corta el turrón en trozos antes de ponerlo en la mesa

A mi me gusta comer besugo, pero en mi casa todos prefieren pavo

¡Qué curioso! Esa figura de mazapán parece una gallina


LOTERÍA


The lottery (lotería) It is a public game of chance that the Spanish are very fond of these days. To participate you have to buy a ticket with a printed number, which is called décimo. The winning number is the one that results from extracting balls from some drums. This is what is called a draw (sorteo). In addition to the main prize (premio gordo or el Gordo), there are others.


The so-called Christmas lottery (lotería de Navidad) is played on December 22nd and it is a great event. The draw is put on television and radio and the country stops expectantly.



Si me toca el gordo, acabo con la hipoteca.

He comprado dos décimos. Uno es para compartir contigo

Conecta la televisión, va a empezar el sortero.


NOCHEVIEJA, AÑO NUEVO


Nochevieja is New Year's Eve, that is, the night of December 31st. The Año Nuevo is on January 1.


There are people who spend New Year's Eve as a family, waiting for the New Year. Others dine out. But what all Spaniards do is take 12 grapes while the 12 chimes that mark 12 pm on the 31st sound. They are called lucky grapes (uvas de la suerte or uvas)


Este año tomo las uvas con unos amigos

En Nochevieja cenamos con la familia de mi mujer



DIA DE REYES


In many areas of Spain, it is the Three Wise Men (Reyes Magos) who bring the gifts, although in many families Santa Claus also gives them at Christmas, due to cultural pressure.


That day is January 6. The Three Wise Men enter the cities on the night of January 5 and, in many of them, parades (cabalgatas) are organized that fill the children with enthusiasm.


It is very typical to have a sweet called roscón de Reyes.

Roscón de Reyes

Después que pase la cabalgata voy a recoger el roscón.

Paquito, tienes que escribir la carta a los Reyes Magos


Exercises


1.- Ese______ no tiene mula ni buey

2.- Y si no me gustan las ______ ¿qué tomo durante las campanadas?

3.- Los ________ en mi belén llegan montados en camellos

4.- Preferimos tomar pavo en _________. En Navidad solemos comer menos

5.- Es un ______ muy antiguo. Hay poca gente que lo cante

6.- Hay un nacimiento muy bonito en el ______ de la farmacia

7.- Siempre ponemos el castillo de _____ en un lugar elevado, como vigilando.

8. -Compramos el ­­­­________ en una confitería cerca de casa tras pasar la cabalgata.

9.- No golpees tan fuerte la ______. La vas a romper

10.- El ________ de la Anunciación es una figura preciosa

11.- Normalmente el _________ solo lleva puesto pañales

12.- El 5 de enero saldremos a ver la _______

13.-Prefiero el ____ al turrón, mantecados y polvorones

14.-Mi ______ preferido es Baltasar

15.-Me gusta comprar un ____ que incluya en año de mi nacimiento.


Solutions


1.- Ese misterio no tiene mula ni buey

2.- Y si no me gustan las uvas ¿qué tomo durante las campanadas?

3.- Los Reyes Magos en mi belén llegan montados en camellos

4.- Preferimos tomar pavo en Nochebuena En Navidad solemos comer menos

5.- Es un villancico muy antiguo. Hay poca gente que lo cante

6.- Hay un nacimiento muy bonito en el escaparate de la farmacia

7.- Siempre ponemos el castillo de Herodes en un lugar elevado, como vigilando.

8. -Compramos el ­­­­roscón de Reyes en una confitería cerca de casa tras pasar la calbalgata

9.- No golpees tan fuerte la pandereta La vas a romper

10.- El ángel de la Anunciación es una figura preciosa

11.- Normalmente el Niño Jesús solo lleva puesto pañales

12.- El 5 de enero saldremos a ver la cabalgata

13.-Prefiero el mazapán al turrón, mantecados y polvorones

14.-Mi Rey Mago preferido es Baltasar

15.-Me gusta comprar un décimo que incluya en año de mi nacimiento.


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