Christmas is Navidad by Diana Ferraro

The Catholic Hispanic world, both in Spain and Latin America, celebrates the birth of the Christ with its own tradition and imagery. As we know, images are at the core of Catholic belief as much as the Word, if not more.

Navidad, the name for Christmas celebration, evokes from the start the scene of the nativity, rather than the image of the Christ. For any person born within the Hispanic tradition, the image of the manger is therefore the one which first comes to mind. It remains engrained in every childhood memory in which the pine tree and Santa are foreign and all that counts is the primitive scene at Bethlehem. The baby on his bed of hay, the Virgin as the always beautiful and loving mother, the always erased Joseph in the background--he will be later loved as the saint patron of workers--the animals bringing warmth, and the Magi, Los Tres Reyes Magos, are part of the tradition as much as the invisible God, the true Father of the child.

The Three Wise Men are not only those who bring the presents to the baby but also to the Hispanic children, on the magic night of January 5th. In Spain and some countries of Latin America, the cavalcade of the Magi on their camels still takes place, and children wait for them and their bags with toys as much as other children wait for Santa in the rest of the world (and in Spain and Latin America, too, since long ago because why not have the best of both worlds?)

Mother of the Holy baby, the Virgin comes first in popular devotion, only second to God the Father, with the Child coming in third place until the Crucifixion gives him the lead in the meaning. Because of the Magi, the Star which announced the good news and led the Magi to the savior’s birth place is also a first class image, and a common staple in the metaphysical and poetical Hispanic world. The Virgin and the Star often represent the two faces of hope. The contrast between Life and Death is also a favorite in Christmas poetical imagery, Navidad being the opposite of the Crucifixion, the manger the opposite of the cross.

Poets from Spain and Latin America have referred to Christmas, as have all the Christian poets in the world, but they have reveled in these favorite images of Hispanic culture, bringing a different flavor to the same wonder and miracle of Christmas. Among many others, San Juan de la Cruz (1542-1591) a Catholic saint, a mystic and a poet; Lope de Vega (1562-1635) the most revered classical Spanish poet and playwright, only second to Cervantes; the most recent poets Juan Ramon Jiménez (1881-1958) also a Nobel Prize; Gerardo Diego (1896-1987); Luis Rosales (1910-1992); and their colleagues across the Atlantic, the Nicaraguan Rubén Dario (1867-1916) and the Mexican Amado Nervo(1870-1919) have sung the Nativity, that Navidad which celebration starts on the eve, the Nochebuena, the good night, with bells singing at midnight to celebrate the birth of Jesus. And since Spain and Latin America had always been a torn region between belief and disbelief, hope and discontent, atheists and their doubts about not only of the Nativity but God himself, couldn’t miss the celebration: Miguel de Unamuno (1864-1936) speaks humorously on their behalf, about the most general theme of faith.

¡Feliz Navidad!

San Juan de la Cruz

Ya que era llegado el tiempo
en que de nacer habia
asi como desposado
de su talamo salia,

abrazado con su esposa,
que en sus brazos la traia,
al cual la graciosa Madre
en su pesebre ponia,

entre unos animales
que a la sazón alli
habia,los hombres decian cantares,
los Angeles melodia,

festejando el desposorio
que entre tales dos habia,
pero Dios en el pesebre
alli lloraba y gemia,

que eran joyas que la esposa
al desposorio traia,
y la Madre estaba en pasmo
de que tal trueque veia:

el llanto del hombre en Dios,
y en el hombre la alegria,
lo cual del uno y del otro
tan ajeno ser solia.

by San Juan de la Cruz

The time had come
In which He should be born,
Like a newly wed
He left his wedding bed

Embraced to His spouse
Carrying her in His arms,
Him who his gracious Mother,
Laid in the manger

Among the animals
Who were there at that moment,
While men uttered songs
To an angel's melody

To celebrate the union
Between such a pair
Though God in the manger
Cried and moaned,

For there were jewels the wife
Brought to the wedding,
And the Mother was so amazed
Seeing in such exchange

The cry of man in God,
And in man the joy,
Both of which were before
Unknown to each other.


Lope de Vega

Las pajas del pesebre
niño de Belén
hoy son flores y rosas,
mañana seran hiel.
Llorais entre pajas,
frio que tenéis,
hermoso niño mio,
y del calor también.
Dormid, Cordero santo;
mi vida, no lloréis;
que si os escucha el lobo,
vendra por vos, mi bien.
Dormid entre pajas
que, aunque frias las veis,
hoy son flores y rosas,
mañana seran hiel.
Las que para abrigaros
tan blandas hoy se ven,
seran mañana espinas
en corona cruel
Mas no quiero deciros,
aunque vos lo sabéis,
palabras de pesar
en dias de placer;
que aunque tan grandes deudas
en pajas las cobréis,
hoy son flores y rosas,
mañana seran hiel.
Dejad en tierno llanto,
divino Emmanuel;
que perlas entre pajas se pierden sin por qué.
No piense vuestra Madre que ya Jerusalén previente sus dolores
y llora con José;
que aunque pajas no sean corona para rey,
hoy son flores y rosas, mañana seran hiel.

by Lope de Vega

The straws in the manger,
Child of Bethlehem,
Are today’s flowers and roses
And tomorrow’s bitter bile.

You cry on the hay
Being so cold,
My beautiful child,
And so warm too.

Sleep, Holy Lamb,
My life, don’t cry:
If the wolf would to hear
He will come for you, my love.

Sleep among straws,
And, even if they feel cold,
They are still flowers and roses,
Not yet tomorrow’s bitter bile.

So smooth they are now
To warm you up,
For they will be tomorrow's thorns
In a cruel crown.

But I don’t want to tell you,
As you well know,
Words of pain
In days of pleasure,

But so great debts
That in straws you’re being paid,
Today are flowers and roses,
And tomorrow, only bile.

Divine Emmanuel,
Leave in a tender weep
Pearls lost in the straw Without knowing why.

Don’t let your Mother think
That Jerusalem
Foresees her pain
And cries with Joseph,

Even if straws are not
A crown for a king,
They still are flowers and roses
Before becoming bile.


Lope de Vega

De una Virgen hermosa celos tiene el sol, porque vio en sus brazos otro sol mayor.

Cuando del Oriente salió el sol dorado,
y otro sol helado miró tan ardiente, quitó de la frente la corona bella,
y a los pies de la estrella su lumbre adoró, porque vio en sus brazos otro sol mayor.

ÂHermosa Maria, dice el sol vencido, de vos ha nacido el sol que podia
dar al mundo el dia que ha deseadoÂ.
Esto dijo humillado a Maria el sol,
porque vio en sus brazos otro sol mayor.

by Lope de Vega

The sun is jealous of a beautiful Virgin
because in her arms he saw a much greater sun.

When from the East the golden sun rose and another sun
glanced in such an ardor, he removed from his front the splendid crown
and adored His fire
stooping at the feet of the star, because in her arms he saw,
a much greater sun.

“Beautiful Mary, says the beaten sun, from you is born
the sun that could give the world the light it so much desired--
This was what the sun said to Mary, humbled because in her arms he saw a much greater sun.


Lope de Vega

Yo vengo de ver, Antón,
un niño en pobrezas tales,
que le di para pañales
las telas del corazón

by Lope de Vega

I’ve just seen, Anton,
A child in such a poverty,
That I gave him as diapers
The skin of my heart.


Juan Ramón Jiménez

Jesús, el dulce, viene...
Las noches huelen a romero...
¡Oh, qué pureza tiene la luna en el sendero!

Palacios, catedrales,
tienden la luz de sus cristales insomnes en la sombra dura y fria...
Mas la celeste melodia suena fuera...
Celeste primavera
que la nieve, al pasar, blanda, deshace, y deja atrs eterna calma...

¡Señor del cielo, nace esta vez en mi alma!

by Juan Ramón Jiménez

Jesus, the sweet, is coming…
Nights smell like rosemary…
O how pure the moon
Looks on the trail!

Palaces and cathedrals
Offer the light of their crystals,
Sleepless in the cold, hard shade…

But outside
The heavenly melody sounds...
A celestial spring unfolded
By the passing, soft snow
Which melts and leaves behind
Its eternal calm.

Lord of sky, be born again,
This time in my soul!


Gerardo Diego

Quién ha entrado en el portal, en el portal de Belén?
Quién ha entrado por la puerta? quién ha entrado, quién?.

La noche, el frio, la escarcha y la espada de una estrella.
Un varón -vara florida-y una doncella.

Quién ha entrado en el portal por el techo abierto y roto?
Quién ha entrado que asi suena celeste alboroto?

Una escala de oro y música, sostenidos y bemoles
y -- ¿angeles con panderetas dorremifasoles.

Quién ha entrado en el portal, en el portal de Belén,
no por la puerta y el techo ni el aire del aire, quién?.

Flor sobre impacto capullo, rocio sobre la flor.
Nadie sabe cómo vino mi Niño, mi amor.


by Gerardo Diego

Who has entered the porch, the porch in Bethlehem?
Who has crossed the door? Who has, who?

Night, coldness, and frost And the sword of a star. A male
bloomed limb --
And a maid.

Who has entered the porch
Through the open and broken roof
Who has entered to awake
Such a celestial uproar?

A scale of gold and music,
Sharps and flats.
And angels with tambourines
And dohremifasols.

Who has entered the porch,
The porch of Bethlehem,
Not through the door or the roof
Or the air of the air, who?

Flower on a hit bud,
Dew on the flower.
Nobody knows how he came,
My Child, my love.


Luis Rosales

¡Morena por el sol de la alegria, mirada por la luz de la promesa,
jardin donde la sangre vuela y pesa; inmaculada Tú, Virgen Maria!.

Qué arroyo te ha enseñado la armonia de tu paso sencillo, qué sorpresa
de vuelo arrepentido y nieve ilesa, junta tus manos en el alba fria?

Qué viento turba el momento y lo conmueve?
Canta su gozo el alba desposada,
calma su angustia el mar, antiguo y bueno.

La Virgen, a mirarle no se atreve, y el vuelo de su voz arrodillada canta al Señor, que llora sobre el heno.

by Luis Rosales

Swarthy because of joy’s sun, watched over by the light of promise, garden where blood flies and weighs,
You immaculate, Virgin Mary!

Which stream taught you the harmony of your modest steps,
which surprise of repented flight and snow untouched joins your hands in the chilling dawn?

Which wind disturbs and shakes the moment?
The married dawn sings her delight
And the old good sea his anguish calms.

The Virgin doesn't dare to look at Him,
and the flight of her voice on knees
sings the Lord, who cries on His bed of hay.

Rubén Dario

“Yo soy Gaspar.
Aqui-traigo el incienso.
Vengo a decir: La vida es pura y bella.
Existe Dios.
El amor es inmenso.
¡Todo lo sé por la divina Estrella!

“Yo soy Melchor.
Mi mirra aroma todo.
Existe Dios.
El es la luz del dia.
¡La blanca flor tiene sus pies en lodo y en el placer hay la melancolia!

Soy Baltasar.
Traigo el oro.
Aseguro que existe Dios.
El es el grande y fuerte.
Todo lo sé por el lucero puro
que brilla en la diadema de la Muerte.

“Gaspar, Melchor y Baltasar, callaos.
Triunfa el amor, ya su fiesta os convida.
¡Cristo resurge, hace la luz del caos y tiene la corona de la Vida!

by Rubén Dario

-I am Gaspar.
Here I bring the incense.
I come to say:
Life is pure and beautiful.
God exists.
Love is immense.
All this I know through the divine Star!

-I am Melchior.
My mirth perfumes everything.
God exists. He’s the daylight.
The white flower has her feet in the mud
And there is melancholy in pleasure!

I am Balthazar. I bring the gold.
I assure that God exists.
He’s great and strong.
All this I know through the pure bright star
Which shines on Death’s diadem.

-Gaspar, Melchior and Balthazar, please shut up.
Love has overcome and invites you to his party
Christ revives and brings light out of chaos,
Wearing the crown of Life.


Amado Nervo

Pastores y pastoras, abierto esta el edén.
No s voces sonoras? Jesús nació en Belén.

La luz del cielo baja, el Cristo nació ya,
y en un nido de paja cual pajarillo esta.

El niño esta¡ friolento.
¡Oh noble buey, arropa con tu aliento al Niño Rey!

Los cantos y los vuelos invaden la extensión, y estan de fiesta cielos y tierra... y corazón.

Resuenan voces puras que cantan en tropel:

Hosanna en las alturas al Justo de Israel!

¡Pastores, en bandada venid, venid,
a ver la anunciada Flor de David!...

by Amado Nervo

Shepherds and shepherdesses,
The Garden of Eden is open.
Can you hear the sound of voices?
Jesus is born in Bethlehem.

Skylight bows
Over the Christ just born,
Like a small bird he lies
On his nest of straws.

The child feels the chill.
O noble ox,
Tuck him up with your breath
The Child, our king.

Singing and flying
Invading the space
Skies and earth celebrate
And so does the heart.

Clear voices resound
Singing in a crowd
Hosanna on the heighest
o the Holy One of Israel!

Shepherds, flock and come, Come to see
The announced Flower of David!...


Miguel de Unamuno

Oye mi ruego Tú,
Dios que no existes,
y en tu nada recoge estas mis quejas,
Tú que a los pobres hombres nunca dejas sin consuelo de engaño.
No resistes

a nuestro ruego y nuestro anhelo vistes.
Cuando Tú de mi mente mis te alejas, mis recuerdo las placidas consejas con que mi ama endulzóme noches tristes.

¡Qué grande eres, mi Dios!
Eres tan grande que no eres sino Idea;
es muy angosta
la realidad por mucho que se expande

para abarcarte.
Sufro yo a tu costa,
Dios no existente, pues si
Tú existieras existiria yo también de veras.

by Miguel de Unamuno

Listen to my prayer,
You God who doesn’t exist
and in your nothingness collects these my complaints
You who never leaves the poor men
without the comfort of deception.
You can’t resist

our demands and
You dress with our wishes.
The more you slip away from my mind the most
I remember the peaceful fables
with which my nanny sweetened my gloomy nights.

How great you are, my God!
You are so great
that you are nothing but an Idea;
no matter how much reality expands to embrace you,

it still remains very narrow.
I suffer on your behalf, not existent God,
because if You would exist
then I would truly exist myself.


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