If you want to have a great time during your vacation in the Dominican Republic, speaking a few words in Spanish will take you a long way. However, learning traditional Spanish Christmas songs as the holidays approach will radically change how much fun you can have in this breathtaking tropical paradise.
Like in any other Latin American country, the holiday season in the DR is a time when families get together to celebrate, and as you might suspect, they love to sing. Their carols aren't that different from the ones heard in the United States. As a matter of fact, some of them are the Spanish versions of well-known tunes by everybody in America.
Jingle Bells and Silent Night, for example, have multiple
variations, and you won't find anyone who isn't familiar with the
rhythm of these songs. Others, such as Peces en el río and
sobre campana, are unique to the Spanish-speaking world.
Take a look at
the following list of Christmas carols, I'm sure you will like them:
I don't think there's a single Latin that hasn't heard mi burrito sabanero. This song composed in 1972 by Venezuelan composer Hugo Blanco is one of the top carols in Spanish-speaking countries including the Dominican Republic.
By listening to the original version, you can immediately
identify the high pitched voice of the children, The group La
Rondallita, singing the catchy tune as they tell
of a rider
taking a donkey (el
burrito sabanero) through the meadows to see the
baby Jesus in Bethlehem. There are several versions of this song
(including the one of Juanes), but personally, I like the original one.
It is hard to imagine a more popular carol than Noche de paz. The song is a translation from the acclaimed Stille Nacht, Heilige Nacht, originally written by priest Joseph Mohr and composed by Franz Gruber in 1818, Austria. Even though it has been almost 200 years from the time it was created, the melody is still deeply rooted in the heart of nearly every person that celebrates Christmas.
It may not be an original Spanish carol, but you can bet that
its rhythm is well understood by Dominicans and Latin Americans alike.
If you haven't heard Navidad,
Navidad, I don't know where you
have been hiding. This popular Spanish song is a translation from the
timeless favorite Jingle
Bells also formerly known as One Horse Open
Sleigh. James Pierpont wrote the original version around
the 1850s in
One interesting detail about Navidad, Navidad is
variants exist in the Spanish language alone. Spain, Mexico, Panama,
and many more countries have their own slightly tweaked adaptation of
the Christmas hit. It is no accident the song is loved by virtually
everybody. Personally, I can't stop myself from singing it, whenever I
One carol that
definitely isn't a Spanish translation is Los peces en el río.
it isn't clear who wrote it or where it was originated, it has an
important place in the heart of all Spanish-speakers.
The lyrics of the
song are profoundly Christian, and they talk about the Virgin Mary's
life after the birth of Jesus. It has a smooth rhythm, unlike most
festive Christmas tunes.
One of my favorites
Christmas songs is El
tamborilero. As a child, I thought it was a
native Spanish carol, but I couldn't have been more wrong. It has been
said that the melody came from the Czech Republic. However, after
Katherine Davis translated it into English in 1941 with the title Carol
of the Drum, the Von Trapp family launched a recording
international success. It became popular in Spanish during the 1960s
due to the efforts of the singer Raphael.
Just like Los peces en el río, Ya vienen los reyes is an original Spanish musical piece. While it is true no one knows for sure where does it come from or who wrote it, Ya vienen los reyes is treasured in the hearts of all native Spanish-speakers. The song tells the story of three magi coming from the east to see and worship the Messiah.
One mystery that has baffled the minds of many is the line
olé, olé, Holanda y olé
Holanda ya se ve. Since the magi weren't going
to Holland but Bethlehem, it has caused a lot of confusion. Some
believe the word Holanda
actually refers to Olanda,
which is supposed
to be the name of the guiding star.
Another song with an unknown origin is Campanas de Belén (also known as Campana sobre campana). From the beginning of the 20th century, it has been translated and popularized through several languages. The English translation of the song is called Bells over Bethlehem. In the lyrics, the sound of bells announcing the birth of the Son of God signifies a time for celebration.
The melody is indeed a happy one. I can tell you once you
listen to it, you won't be able to stop singing along.
Have you heard the famous carol Rudolph the Red Nosed
Reindeer? If you have, you are going to love
Rodolfo el reno de la
nariz roja as it is the Spanish version of the
hit composed by Johnny Marks in 1948. Several artists have recorded
different versions in Spanish, but the intended meaning of the carol
had remained intact.
One trait that distinguishes traditional Spanish Christmas songs is the
religious meaning behind the lyrics. While most of the English songs
have a more secular approach to the holidays, the mention of Jesus and
other significant figures of Christianity are everywhere in Spanish
melodies. La Marimorena
is a clear example of that. The Virgin Mary,
Joseph, Jesus, and even the three magi from the east are depicted in
this classic traditionally heard during Christmas Eve or Noche Buena.
Most Children in Spanish-speaking countries love Vamos
pastores vamos. The song has been passed down from adults
for generations. It recounts the journey of the shepherds to find the
recently born son of God. The melody also describes the nativity
scene: the Virgin Mary holding baby Jesus in her arms while Joseph is
watching them lovingly.
Having knowledge of a few traditional Spanish Christmas songs can make your holiday vacation in the Dominican Republic a fascinating experience. Your Spanish doesn't have to be top-notch, and you certainly don't need to know every song. Only a craving for fun is required.
Take the opportunity to mingle with the locals, join them for a few aguinaldos, and sing at the top of your lungs. Soon enough you will begin to feel the essence of the Christmas spirit that lies in the hearts of all Dominicans.