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Column: Fond memories of Christmas en español

December 4, 2018

Mi Jefita has always been a strong proponent of Spanish Christmas carols.

She lives in Spanish but, generally, she does Christmas in English. She watches the Hallmark Christmas movies and the movies about Rudolph, Frosty and the Grinch in English, she sends cards printed with holiday greetings in English and even the little tags she puts on presents say “To” and “From” instead of “Para” and “De.”

But when she starts wrapping presents, long before the kids are out of school, the Christmas carols en español start playing throughout the house — as has been the case for years. She knew the words to “Burrito Sabanero” hours after that song’s release, and I remember her standing in the kitchen singing that song to my then 7-year-old brother while he ate huevos con chorizo and tried using The Force to get her to stop singing.

“Es de un muchachito!” she said with a big smile, loading more huevito con chorizo on his plate as if that would somehow make the song more attractive. It might have worked for me, but he had already entered his Star Wars years, and being called a muchachito was a bit of an insult.

Another favorite was “Los peces en el rio,” particularly the Pandora version. I was a teen at the time and my mom never pointed out that Pandora were also teens. She did, however, play that song a lot as the glow of the Christmas tree lit up our stereo with the two cassette decks.

“Pero mira como beben los peces en el riooooo, pero mira como beben al ver a Dios nacido.

Beben y beben y vuelven a beber, los peces en el riooooo por ver a Dios nacer.”

I never understood why fish drinking the very water in which they lived their entire lives was worth singing about, or why it had anything to do with celebrating Christmas. Were the fish a metaphor for mankind? Was this in reference to holiday drinking? Sepa.

“Ven a mi casa esta navidad” became one of our favorites, but not because it’s a song about kindness and love, about reaching out to the lonely and sad, about making room at the family table for someone who could use el calor of the holidays. The sentimental Christmas classic by Luis Aguile became a favorite at our house because my brother figured out that the singer, after spending all year on the naughty list, is extending a last minute invitation to Santa.

Mi Jefita doesn’t agree, but she plays the song anyway while the tamales are boiling and, by the time they’re all done, people drop in.

We might all have different taste in music, but everyone understands tamales.

mariaanglinwrites@gmail.com

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