First of all let’s start with some basic Spanish words about Christmas:
- Merry Christmas! – Feliz Navidad!
- Happy new year! – Feliz Año Nuevo!
- Christmas tree – Arbol de Navidad
- Christmas lights – Luces navideñas
- Christmas stocking – El calcetín de Navidad
- Christmas carols – Villancicos
- Christmas card – La tarjeta de Navidad
- Father christmas – Papá Noel
- Sleigh – Trineo
- Reindeer – Los renos
- Hot chocolate – Bebida de chocolate caliente
- Snowman – Muñeco de Nieve
- Midnight mass – La misa del gallo
- Presents – Regalos
Christmas is one of the most beautiful and pleasant times of the year anywhere in the world. Christmas is also the perfect occasion to decorate the house and to meet the family. There are also many words and vocabulary used to refer to actions, people, and objects that are directly related to Christmas, but as in all languages, there is also a Spanish Christmas vocabulary.
As they do in different countries around the world, in many Spanish-speaking countries the traditional Christmas tree and crib are placed to decorate the house. However, there are many things that need to be identified precisely in order to understand what they are about. To learn more about the Spanish Christmas vocabulary, let’s learn these words and their respective translation.
Spanish Christmas Vocabulary: Christmas Tree Decoration
The Christmas tree is the most used item all over the world during the Christmas season. It can be natural or fictitious, but it has a lot of decorations that could be defined differently in the Spanish Christmas vocabulary. Let’s look at some of these Spanish words and a small definition of each one of them.
- “Arbol de Navidad” – Christmas Tree. It is the traditional tree that is decorated inside and outside the houses to represent the arrival of Christmas.
- “Guirnalda” – Wreath / Garland. The “Wreath” is the hoop-shaped accessory that is placed on walls, doors, and walls with a series of decorations alluding to Christmas. These can be of different sizes and materials.
- “Luces navideñas” – Christmas lights. These are unusual lights that have different shapes and colors. The lights can be placed on the Christmas tree or anywhere else in the house. There are “Lluvias de luces” (Rain of Lights) and even “guirnaldas de luces” (lights garlands).
- “Velas” – Candles. They are the traditional colored candles, usually red and green, used to decorate tables, fireplaces, etc.
- “Cascabeles y Campanas” – Bells. They are the traditional bells that are heard a lot during Christmas, although the “Cascabeles” are characterized by their small size and can be carried in the hand.
- “Los adornos” – Decorations or ornaments. It’s hard to imagine Christmas without decorations.
- “La estrella” – Star. Most often placed at the top of the Christmas tree.
Spanish Christmas Vocabulary: The Nativity
The Nativity is another symbol that is installed in the houses to represent the scene of the birth of Jesus. This is known in Spanish as “Nacimiento” or “Belén,” which in English is translated as The Nativity Scene. A “Nativity” is composed of several elements and characters.
- “Los tres Reyes Magos” – Three Kings/Mages King. These are the three kings who went to see Jesus; Balthazar, Melchior, and Gaspar.
- “Estrella de Belén” – Bethlehem Star. This is the star that the kings followed to get to the manger where Jesus was.
- “Pesebre”. This represents the place where Jesus was supposed to be born, the nativity scene. Sometimes also called El belén.
- “El niño Jesús” – Baby jezus. Christmas is celebrating the birth of baby jesus.
- “La virgen María” – Virgin Mary. The mother of baby Jesus.
These are the essential elements that make up a “Nacimiento”. It also includes animals such as “Vacas” (cows), “ponillos” (donkeys), and “Ovejas” (sheep). In some cultures, they are also given lights and other props to set the mood.
Spanish Christmas Vocabulary: Christmas Lottery
“La Lotería de Navidad” is a tradition that is celebrated in Spain and consists of certain characteristics and words that could be misinterpreted. So, to avoid confusion, let’s get to know the Spanish vocabulary of the Christmas Lottery.
- “Lotería de Navidad” – Christmas Lottery/Lottery of Christmas. It is a draw made by a Spanish lottery to give gifts to the community.
- “Día del Sorteo” – Draw Day. This is the day selected to hold the Christmas Lottery Draw. In Spain this is usually December 22nd.
- “El Premio Gordo” – The Big Prize of the Lottery in Spain, refers to the biggest prize a lottery can award, in this case, the Spanish lottery.
Spanish Christmas’ Eve and New Year Day
Christmas Eve is perhaps the most important night of the Christmas season when families gather for a big dinner and also to share gifts. For this day there are also unique words used in the Spanish language that can be confused when translated. The New Year is also celebrated. Let’s look at some of them.
- “Nochebuena” – Christmas’ Eve. In most countries it is celebrated on December 24th, and it is the night that represents the birth of Jesus.
- “El día de Navidad” – Christmas day. This day is celebrated on December 25th. Some countries celebrate two Christmas days. The second one being on the 26th.
- “Cena de navidad” – Christmas Eve Dinner. It is the dinner that is served on Christmas Eve.
- “Turrón” – Nougat. It is a candy made with peanuts and other ingredients that is served on the tables on Christmas Eve or during the Christmas season as such.
- “Papá Noel” – Santa Claus. He is the Christmas character who brings the presents on Christmas Eve.
- “Año Nuevo” – New Year Day. This is the last and first day of the year which is celebrated between the night of December 31st and the first night of January 1st.
- “Comer 12 Uvas el primer día de Año Nuevo” – Eat 12 Grapes for the New Year. Eating the “12 New Year Grapes” just as the new year begins symbolizes prosperity for this year.
- “Fuegos Artificiales” – Fireworks. These are the traditional fireworks that are launched on Christmas Eve, but mostly on New Year’s Eve.
- “Campanadas” – Chimes. They are the classic bells that are heard when the old year ends and the new year arrives.
Spanish Christmas Vocabulary: Day of the Innocents
“El Día de los Inocentes” is a day celebrated on December 28th in many countries. On this day many jokes and games are often played in order to fool someone for being “innocent”. In the Spanish vocabulary it is common to hear words like the following:
- “Hacer bromas” – Make Jokes or Tricks. This refers to the traditional jokes and games that people play on each other in order to annoy each other in a healthy way.
- “Inocente” – Innocent. It is the “victim” who suffers from all the jokes and games that are played on this day.
Other common words in a Spanish Christmas are:
- “The coal” – Charcoal. Gift by the Kings to children who does not behave.
- “La cabalgata” – Horseback Riding/Parade of the Three Wise Men.
That’s it! Merry christmas and a happy new year!