The villancico was a common poetic and musical form of the Iberian Peninsula. With the decline in popularity of the villancicos in the 20th century, the term became reduced to mean merely “Christmas carol”. Derived from medieval dance forms, the 15th century Spanish villancico was a type of popular song sung in the vernacular and frequently associated with rustic themes. The poetic form of the Spanish villancico was that of an estribillo (or refrain) and coplas (stanzas), with or without an introduction.
Villancicos in the New World
The villancico developed as a secular polyphonic genre when religious villancicos gained popularity in the second half of the 16th century in Spain and its colonies in Latin America. These devotional villancicos, which were sung during matins of the feasts of the Catholic calendar, became extremely popular in the 17th century and continued in popularity until the decline of the genre in the 18th and 19th centuries.