A Bygone New Year’s Tradition

Ringing in the New Year with a serenade.

Back in the old days there was a Hispanic tradition in naming children. When a child was born on a saint’s feast day, he or she would be named after that saint. But if the child was born on New Year’s Day, he or she would be named Manuel or Manuela. The name derives from Emmanuel, imman’uel, which means “God is with us.”

A Musical Celebration

Throughout the villages of northern New Mexico musicians would go through the community to serenade all the Manueles, Manuelas, Emmanuales, Mannies, Manuelitos, Manuelitas and Samueles. It was their way of honoring God’s presence. During advent there’s popular hymn that begins with, “Oh come, oh come Emmanuel …Oh come, oh come Emmanuel and rescue Israel.” It is sung in anticipation of the birth of Christ. On January 1st the verses sung on el día de los manueles are composed as ballads known as corridos. The corrido pays tribute to historical events like the newborns named in honor of the Christ child.

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