For most people who are not familiar with Mexico, Las Mañanitas (lahs mah-nyah-neeh-tahs) is a traditional Mexican song that is sung on birthdays and other important days (including Mother’s Day) to men and women of all ages. It started as a ranch song and gradually became associated with birthdays, weddings, baptisms and anniversaries.
Las Mañanitas is sung (just before the cake is cut) at birthday parties in homes, at schools, in restaurants – even in the street. It is often sung as an early morning serenade to wake up a loved one.
Most people who hear it are immediately struck by its captive tune and the gentle rhythm of the words. Listen to it here: Las Mañanitas
Besides the memorable tune, Las Mañanitas also offers some moving lyrics which are more appealing than the usual “Happy Birthday Song”. Maybe that’s the reason why many English speakers in Mexico latch on to Las Mañanitas when they hear it.
The song is strongly associated with Mariachis, who are traditionally commissioned by family or friends to arrive outside the home of the person celebrating a birthday and serenade them at daybreak, waking them from their slumber to celebrate their special day.
As is sometimes common with traditional songs, there are variations with many different verses. At most Mexican parties only the first two or four verses are sung. Mariachis perform a longer version of the song.
Here’s a popular short version of the song:
Estas son las mañanitas que cantaba el Rey David
Hoy por ser día de tu santo, te las cantamos a ti.
Despierta, mi bien*, despierta, mira que ya amaneció
Ya los pajarillos cantan, la luna ya se metió.
Qué linda está la mañana en que vengo a saludarte
Venimos todos con gusto y placer a felicitarte.
Ya viene amaneciendo ya la luz del día nos dio
Levántate de mañana, mira que ya amaneció.
“mi bien” is replaced with the name of the person being celebrated.
The English translation
This is the morning song that King David sang
Because today is your saint’s day we’re singing it for you
Wake up, my dear (or the name of the person), wake up, look it is already dawn
The birds are already singing and the moon has set
How lovely is the morning in which I come to greet you
We all came with joy and pleasure to congratulate you
The morning is coming now, the sun is giving us its light
Get up in the morning, look it is already dawn
The second line of the first stanza of the song is sometimes replaced with “…a las/los muchachas/os bonitos/os se las cantamos aquí” (“…to the pretty girls/boys we sing them here”). In some regions it is changed to “…hoy por ser tu cumpleaños te las cantamos aqui” (“…Because today is your saint’s day we’re singing it here”).
Many contemporary Mexican musicians have recorded popular versions of Las Mañanitas. Among them is longstanding Mexican group Mariachi Vargas de Tecalitlán, the oldest and most famous mariachi ensemble formed in 1898 in the town of Tecalitlán, Jalisco (ha-leehs-koh).
Here’s their version: Las Mañanitas Enjoy 🙂
Until we me again…take care 🙂