Christmas in Colombia brings forth a very special musical tradition: Christmas carols or ‘villancicos.’ These songs, brimming with history and emotion, intertwine with the Christian festivity of the birth of Jesus Christ and have become an essential part of the Christmas celebration in the country.
The term ‘villancico’ has its roots in the word ‘villanos,’ which referred to the inhabitants of the towns and distinguished them from the nobles or ‘hidalgo’ class. Originally, it was these inhabitants who mainly performed these songs.
These carols emerged between the 15th and 18th centuries during the Spanish Renaissance. They gained popularity in Spain, Portugal, and later in Latin America.
The first carols were sung by town inhabitants and peasants. Initially, they did not have religious content and adopted a popular and common style. Over time, they were integrated into eucharists and family events due to their poetic lyrics.
Carols in Colombia
In present-day Colombia, carols are as ingrained in Christmas tradition as the tree or the nativity scene. Moreover, these carols encapsulate the traditions and culture of the country. Some are sung in rhythms like bambuco, pasillo, guabina, cumbia, porro, and merengue.
These melodies, rich in history and significance, bring Colombian families together during Christmas, creating a festive and emotional atmosphere that transcends generations. They are living testimonies of the cultural and spiritual richness that Christmas music offers during this time of year.
Most popular carols in Colombia
‘Mi Burrito Sabanero’: Composed by Venezuelan Hugo Blanco in 1972, it narrates the shepherds’ journey to Jesus’ birth. The original version, sung by young Ricardo Cuenci, captivates listeners with its innocence and joy.
‘Antón Tiruriruriru’: Of Catalan origin as ‘La Pastora Caterina’, this is a song dedicated to baby Jesus. Although its author is unknown, it has become a classic in Colombia.
‘A La Nanita Nana’: This song, used as a lullaby for babies, was adapted by Jeremias Quintero de Barbacoas, Nariño, making it an essential piece of Colombian Christmas.
‘Tutaina’: This song narrates the journey of the three wise men and their gifts to baby Jesus. Although its origins are a mystery, the most popular version was performed by Saida Ochoa with the backing of the Venezuelan Institute of the Blind Choir.