Las Mañanitas is the default Mexican birthday song. Although like pretty much almost every other country, we also know the same bland happy birthday song that can be sung in other languages, with the very same tune, we usually only hear that boring song in Spanish when it shows up in the so-called "international" Spanish dubs on film or television when the characters sing the equivalent in another language (usually English). For almost every other occasion, if it's a Mexican birthday, and if everyone involved is Mexican, Las Mañanitas will be sung instead.

It's originally a serenade, and that means it was originally meant to be sung by a dashing young man to a modest maiden on the dawn of her birthday. Hence, the title, Las Mañanitas, the mornings, with the diminutive form of "morning" in order to suggest something like an endearing morning. It's a call to said maiden to open her bedroom window, which invariably faces the street or exterior of the home, and show some kindness as she accepts the music from her beloved. Slight modifications in the song have made it suitable to be sung to anyone, not just maidens, but most verses carry some romantic undertone. This being a Mexican song, it also has quite a bit of Catholic imagery. It refers in several places to an outdated Catholic practice of congratulating people on their saint's day instead of their birthday.

Nobody seems to remember who wrote this piece. It seems that Mexican singer and actor Pedro Infante popularised the song during México's golden age of cinema, but it was undoubtedly sung before he did. It's also highly likely that it emerged after the Mexican revolution, since there do not appear to be any references to the song prior to the twentieth century.

It has many verses, with many variations, and each singer can choose which verses to sing and with what variations. It has an introduction, an almost obligatory first verse, a refrain, and then further varying verses and refrains. It is thus an example of a ranchera. For all occasions except for the most formal ones, only the intro and sometimes the first verse and the refrain is sung. Ever so once in a while, there is some smartass who knows one more verse, and just as everyone thinks the song has finished, they start on the next verse and refrain, and other people feel obligated to follow suit. Because the verses are short, you usually only sing the refrain every two verses if you're going for the full thing, but some versions sing the refrain after every verse. Needless to say, this can lengthen the song.

Besides the first verse, the order of the other verses is somewhat flexible, and if you want to hire some mariachis to actually sing this song the way it was meant to be sung, you'd better agree with them in advance in which order you're going to sing as many verses as you know or want to invent. Here is a version of the song, the one that is somewhat sanitised to be sung for everyone. I put in brackets the most common variation that does carry romantic undertones. A line-by-line translation to English beneath every line.

Estas son Las Mañanitas
     These are the [little] mornings [psalms?]
Que cantaba el rey David.
     That King David used to sing      
Hoy por ser día de tu santo              (A las muchachas bonitas)
     Because today is your saint's day         (To the pretty girls)        
Te las cantamos así:                     (Se las cantamos así:) 
     We sing them to you like this:            (We sing them like this:)

Despierta mi bien, despierta    (Despierta, [name of person], despierta)
     Wake up, my love, wake up       Wake up, [name of person], wake up
Mira que ya amaneció
     See how it's morning now
Ya los pajarillos cantan
     The little birds are singing
La luna ya se metió
     And the moon has set

(1st verse)
Qué linda está la mañana
     How nice is this morning
En gue vengo a saludarte
     In which I come to greet you
Venimos todos con gusto
     We all came happily
Y placer a felicitarte
     And are pleased to congratulate you

Ya viene amaneciendo,
     Dawn is breaking
Ya la luz del día nos dio.
     The light of day is upon us
Levántate de mañana,
     Wake up this morning
Mira que ya amaneció.
     See that the day is here

(2nd verse)
El día en que tú naciste
     The day you were born
Nacieron todas las flores
     All the flowers were born
Y en la pila del bautismo
     And in the baptismal pool
Cantaron los ruiseñores
     The nightingales sung

(3rd verse)
Quisiera ser solecito
      I would like to be a little sun
Para entrar por tu ventana
      So I could come in through your window
Y darte los buenos días
      And I could say good morning to you
Acostadito en tu cama
      Tucked in your bed


(4th verse)
Quisiera ser un San Juan
      I would like to be Saint John
quisiera ser un San Pedro
      I would like to be Saint Peter
pa venirte a saludar
      So I could come to greet you
con la música del cielo
      With heavenly music

(5th verse)
Volaron siete palomas
      Seven doves flew
Por toditas las ciudades
      By every single city
Y hoy por ser día de tu santo
      And because today is your saint's day
Te deseamos felicidades
      We wish you happiness


(6th verse)
Si yo pudiera bajarte
      If only I could bring down
Las estrellas y un lucero
      The stars and a sparkle
Para poder demostrarte
      So I could prove to you
Lo mucho que te quiero
      Just how much I love you

(7th verse)
Con jazmines y flores
      With jasmin and flowers
Este día quiero adornar
      I want to decorate this day
Hoy por ser día de tu santo
      Because today is your saint's day
Te venimos a cantar
      We came to sing to you


(8th verse)
De las estrellas del cielo
      From the stars in the sky
Tengo que bajarte dos
      I have to bring two down
Una es para saludarte
      One is to greet you
La otra es para decirte adiós
      The other to bid you goodbye

(9th verse)
Qué bonitas mañanitas,
     What a pretty morning,
Parece que va a llover,
     It seems it's about to rain
Así estaba la mañana,
     Such was the morning
Cuando te empecé a querer
     When I started to love you


(10th verse)
Si el sereno de la esquina
     If the night guard in the corner
me quisiera hacer favor
     Would do me the favour
de apagar su linternita mientras
     To turn off his lantern
que pase mi amor
     So that my love can walk by

(11th verse)
Y ahora, sí, señor sereno,
     And now, Mr Nightguard
le agradezco su favor,
     I thank you for your favour.
Y encienda su linternita,
     Turn on your lantern
que ya mi amor ya pasó.
     Because my love has already walked past


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