Christmas is a very important celebration in all Spanish-speaking countries. In this lesson, we will review some of the essential Christmas vocabulary in Spanish.
One of the most endearing traditions for Christmas in the Hispanic world is the installation of nativity scenes at home or in public places. They are called belenes or nacimientos:
Lo más tradicional
The most traditional [thing]
además del turrón, el champán y los Reyes Magos,
besides nougat candy, champagne and the Three Wise Men,
es montar el belén en casa.
is to put up a Nativity scene at home.
Captions 2-4, Europa Abierta - Joaquín Pérez - Escultor de belenesPlay Caption
Another important tradition are villancicos which are the Spanish equivalent of Christmas carols. Lida and Cleer sing for us one of the most popular villancicos, El burrito de Belén (The Little Donkey from Bethlehem) also known as "El burrito sabanero" (The Little Donkey from the Savannah):
Con mi burrito sabanero voy camino de Belén
With my little savanna donkey I'm heading to Bethlehem
Caption 42, Lida y Cleer - BuñuelosPlay Caption
You may want to learn a few villancicos if you happen to be in a Spanish speaking country around Christmas. Just in case you get invited to a Posada. The word posada means "lodging" or "accommodation." traditionally, posadas are neighborhood celebrations held during the nine days preceding Christmas. They have a religious nature and involve participating in a communal re-enactment of the arrival of Mary and Joseph in Bethlehem who, according to legend, had to go door-by-door pidiendo posada (asking for a place to stay). These celebrations also involve praying, sharing food, and breaking a piñata in the shape of a Christmas star. By extension, the word posada also means "Christmas party" in many Latin American countries. For example, you can get invited to la posada de la oficina (the office Christmas party) or la posada del club de ajedrez (the chess club Christmas party).
Another important word for the Holidays is the word aguinaldo ("thirteen salary" or "Christmas bonus"):
¿Y... le han dado todos sus reglamentos de vacaciones,
And... have they given you all your statutory vacations,
aguinaldo, todo eso?
annual complementary salary, all that?
Caption 21, Doña Coco - La Vida De Una CocineraPlay Caption
Día de Reyes or día de los Reyes Magos (day of the three Wise Men) is another popular Christmas celebration in many Spanish-speaking countries. Sometimes people just call it Reyes (Kings). In Mexico this day marks the end of the so-called Guadalupe-Reyes marathon of winter festivities.
Y en los Reyes, va a venir aquí con tus niños.
And at Epiphany, she is going to come here with your children.
Caption 49, 75 minutos - Del campo a la mesaPlay Caption
Finally, there's an important distinction to make. The Spanish word for Christmas is Navidad, while the equivalent of Christmas eve is called Nochebuena (Literally, "the Good Night").
Ha pasado otra Nochebuena solo, encerrado. -No, no.
You have spent another Christmas Eve alone, locked inside. -No, no.
Captions 23-24, Muñeca Brava - 30 RevelacionesPlay Caption
Nochebuena is also one of the names given to the poinsettias flower, which is indigenous to Mexico and it's widely used in Christmas floral displays all around the world.
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Yo me saqué un nueve.
I got a nine.
Caption 21, Disputas - La Extraña Dama - Part 3Play Caption
You'll note that sacarse una nota is a common expression meaning "getting a grade" in school. Hence in part 3 of Disputas, La Extraña Dama, we hear Gloria's son proclaim yo me saqué un nueve, "I got a nine." A few other interesting uses of sacarse are:
Sacarse un premio.
To win a prize.
Sacarse un peso de encima.
To get rid of a burden.
Tiene que sacarse a esa chica de la cabeza, señor.
You have to get that girl out of your head, sir.
Caption 30, Muñeca Brava - 30 RevelacionesPlay Caption
Sacarse la garra.
To taunt/insult, To "rag on" someone. [Mexico]
Sacarse la careta.
Literally: To rid yourself of the mask; to stop pretending, to be yourself.