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A Colombian Christmas Carol

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BristoLatino music editor Rebecca Wilson talks us through the soundtrack to her first Christmas in Colombia

The name given to Christmas songs sung in Spain and Latin America, Villancicos, comes from the nature of those who traditionally sing them: villagers from rural regions. Villancicos are only heard in December and are songs that used to tell stories about the pueblo: about love, death, everyday situations. The structure includes verses and a chorus, or refrain. You might hear them sung by children at one of the novenas, the 9 days of family reunion for prayer and Christmas treats: perhaps accompanied by some natilla (a panela/cane sugar-flavoured flan) and buñuelos (cheesy fried maize dough balls).





In Colombia, Christmas is a time for (over)drinking and spending time with friends and family. The streets are filled with wives and girlfriends holding up their inebriated other halves, with families walking around highly-lit markets buying lechona (a cooked pig re-stuffed with its own meat and rice) and canelazo (a warm Christmassy drink of agua de panela boiled with cinnamon, and of course, a touch of aguardiente).



Other than the Villancicos often sung by Colombian children, there are traditional songs saved exclusively for the Christmas period up until New Year. Upon hearing the percussive scratch of the guiro and the mention of las navidades, Colombians are often reminded of drunken festivities. Here are a couple of our favourites translated into English:


Parranda de navidad

Con mi botellita de ron
salgo a parrandear
agarro mi cuartico compay
y me voy a gozar nada más

Son para gozarlas
éstas navidades
porque el año que viene
se acaban los pesales

El lucero esta radiante
ya viene el amanecer
agarro mi cuatrico y mi Ron
y Pasteles me voy a Comer

Cuando sean las 12 de la noche
y el año barbudo se va
agarro mi cuatrico y mi ron
y me voy a abrazar a Mamá

Ya yo me despido Compay
de esta Navidad
el año que viene Caramba
volveré a cantar y a gozar


Christmas Party Anthem
With my bottle of rum

I’m going out on the town

I’m bringing my small guitar

And I’m gonna enjoy myself like never before


The Christmas season

Is for having fun

Because this coming year

There’ll be no more regrets


The bright star is shining

The morning’s already creeping in

I’ve got my guitar and my rum

And I’m going to eat Christmas cakes


When the clock strikes midnight

and this rusty year ends

With my guitar and rum and in hand

I’m gonna embrace my mumma


Now I’m saying my goodbyes

To this Christmas

This coming year, well

I’m gonna sing and enjoy myself all over again

Navidad que vuelve

Navidad que vuelve

Tradición del año

Unos van alegres

Otros van llorando

Hay quien tiene todo

Todo lo que tiene

y sus Navidades

siempre son alegres

Hay otros muy pobres

que no tiene nada

son los que prefieren

que nunca llegaran

Navidad que vuelve 

vuelve la parranda 

en fiesta de Reyes 

Todo el mundo canta

Traigo un ramillete

de un lindo rosal 

un año que viene 

otro que se va 

Dime si me quieres 

dime si me quieres 

Que me adoras más 

Un año que viene y otro que se va 


Christmas is Here Again

Christmas is Here Again

The annual tradition

Some go merrily

And others, in tears


There are some who have it all

All that they have

And their Christmas time

Is always a happy time

There are others who have nothing

Those who are poor

Those who would prefer

Christmas never came


Christmas is coming

We’ll be partying soon

At the Three Kings Celebration

Everyone will sing


I’ll bring a pretty bunch of roses

As one year ends

And another begins


If you love me, tell me

If you love me,

Tell me you adore me

As one year ends and another begins

Images (top to bottom): Instagram, Personal Archive. Featured image: Christmas lights in Baranquilla, Colombia -Zona Cero.