The Twelve Songs of Christmas: “Los Peces en el Río”

And now for something completely different.

For today’s edition of the Twelve Songs of Christmas, we bring you a song from a genre of music that is virtually unknown in the English speaking world.

There’s a genre of Spanish language Christmas carols called Villancicos. It’s named after a hundreds of years old poetic/musical form, but nowadays just means Christmas Carol. Here’s a sample of one called “Los Peces en el Río” (The Fish in the River).

In this particular song, the lyrics contrast the fish swimming in the river with Mary. The verses discuss various household chores she performs, while the chorus calls out the excitement and joy of the fish at the arrival of Baby Jesus. The verses themselves vary from cover to cover. This song is not standardized so there are different versions that exist.

You’ll notice that this song has much more religious influence than most of the others on our list. There’s no getting around that fact while still showcasing this genre; Latin American Christmas traditions are much more heavily influenced by the religious influences to the holiday. Even growing up, we didn’t just get presents from Santa, we also got presents from Baby Jesus. Why Jesus would be giving away presents on his birthday is left as an exercise to the reader.

Another thing to notice is that the video above is sung by a children’s choir. This too is a common trend with Villancicos I’ve found. Most recordings I can find are sung by children. When I was a child I was even in one. I don’t know why this is a thing though. There are covers by other artists though. I’ve added one such cover to our Spotify playlist.

This was the sound of Christmas at home for me growing up. Lots of very Jesus-heavy, kid’s choir sung, music. It’s very different from the normal Christmas music that I typically experience, but it does always have a bit of nostalgia associated with it.

I hope you enjoy this glimpse into another genre of Christmas music.

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