The Caterpillar has discovered a new favorite Christmas song. It's a traditional villancico, or Spanish folk carol, called "Los Peces en el Río." It has a bouncy tune and interesting lyrics. As this site points out, there aren't any bells ringing or kings visiting in this song. It's more about Mary accomplishing the mundane tasks of motherhood, while the fishes in the river are gulping with excitement about the Savior's birth.
At first I wasn't sure if I liked the words. According to this source, they point out the contrast between the businesslike mother and the joyful fish. But the lyrics are growing on me.
Being a folk song, the verses vary. I like this recording, because it includes the part about Mary washing diapers and hanging them out to dry. Everyone appreciates her privilege of holding and kissing Baby Jesus, but even he needed diapers, and someone had to wash them. A mother's job, for sure.
Other verses show her combing her hair and taking long walks. While mothers all know it's difficult, we know we must take care of ourselves to keep up the strength to care for our families. In this song, I see Mary as a good example of a new mother, balancing the demands on her time and body. And the fish drink in the wonder of it all.
There's no way to know the origins of this song, but I imagine a group of Spanish women doing their washing in the stream. They comfort each other through the drudgery by pointing out that even Mary had to wash diapers. The burbling brook and its curious fish inspire a light-hearted song. Enjoy!
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