“Olentzero”: A Basque Christmas song

A man playing Olentzero in BilbaoOlentzero, or Olentzaro, is a mitological character from Euskal-Herria (Basque Country, Navarre and French Basque country); the origins of the tale seems to be in Lesaca (B., Lesaka), Navarre. In many respects, Olentzero is the Basque version of the characters of Saint Nicholas, Papa Noël, Santa Claus, etc.; he is a chickadee who lives in the mountains, and in Christmass Eve get down to the villages with gifts for the good boys, and sacks of coal for the bad ones. Olentzero is goodhearted, but he’s badtempered and bearish, some tales and songs shows the character as a guzzler and a little fond of drink. This is one of those songs, from Lesaca:

Original version of this song, as we collected from Prof. García Matos’ Magna Antología del Folklore Musical en España, performed, in accordance with link’s user, by the Basque folk duo Pantxo & Peio:


Some other versions, changing the song order:

A more traditional cover of the song

A peculiar version from the Autonimic Basque TV (Euskal Telebista)



Olentzero buru-aun-diya
Entendimentuz jantziya
Bart arrastian edan omendu
Amar erruko zagia.
Ai, urde tripa-aundiya,
Ai, urde
Orra, orra,
Gure Olentzero:
Pipa artzenducla
Ixerita dago,
Kapoitxua badauzki
Bihar berendatzeko
Botill-arduakin (bis).
Olentzero juantzaigu
Mendira lanera,
Ikatz egitera:
Aditu zuenian
Jesus jaixo zela,
Lasterika etorri-omentzen
Parte ematerra.
Orra, orra,… etc.
Olentzero, begi gorri
Non arrapatuduk
Arrai ori?
Zorioneko errekatan
Arratseko ameketan
Armariyuan xagua
Aren onduan katua;
Itxi onetako limosnákin
Beteko degu zakua.
O, o, o, o, biar Olentzero,
I, i, i, etzi Eguberri,
Kantatu (dezagun)
Ama Virgina-ri:
Eguberri, berri, nikatorra berri,
Eguberri, zar nikatorrazar,
Inaukarik ez,
Riri axolik ez.


Olentzero is big headed,/ but he has understanding,/ last night he drank a ten punds wineskin./ Oh, you dirty fat belly man!/ There’s our Olentzero/ sitting with his smoking pipe;/ he also has fowl and eggs for tea/ with a bottle of wine tomorrow./ Olentzero’s gone to mount for working/ with the intention of making charkcoal,/ and as he heard Jesus is born/ he get back running for telling the new./ There’s our Olentzero,/ Olentzero, red-eyed,/ where did you tanked up*?/ On these damned races at eleven P. M./ In the closet, the mouse,/ and the cat nearby. With this house’s alms/ we’ll fill up the bag./ O, o, o, tomorrow Olentzero; I, i, i, Christmas day after tomorrow/ let us sing for Virgin Mother./ Christmas eve new shirt/ New Year’s Eve**, old shirt without sleeves/ I am careless being.

Traditional from Lesaca, Navarre

*In colloquial Basque language, to catch a fish means to get drunk.

** A wordplay, as in Basque as in Spanish, Christmas eve it’s said “goodnight” (nochebuena) and New Year’s Eve is “oldnight” (nochevieja).

Source: Magna Antología del Folklore Musical en España, by Professor Manuel García Matos

Traducción al castellano: https://albokari2.wordpress.com/2006/12/28/olentzero/

One response to this post.

  1. […] enjoy and to understand this video – Olentzero lyrics with translation! He may smoke in a pipe, drink wine, be fat and lazy, but still brings presents for […]

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