“Feliz Navidad” by Jose Feliciano

“Feliz Navidad” has been one of the most popular Christmas songs in the United States since around the time the tune was introduced to the world in the early 1970s. That is actually pretty amazing considering that, unlike other American Yuletide classics, the lyrics to this piece are actually bilingual. 

And even beyond the confines of the US, this song has proven globally popular. It is even huge in some countries where neither English nor Spanish is the primary language.

That reality would likely be due to the fact that this is one of the catchiest hit songs ever written. It is a tune that any reciter can follow after listening to it just once. On top of this, the lyrics are highly repetitive. In fact lyrically speaking, “Feliz Navidad” ranks amongst the simplest songs we’ve ever had the privilege to study.

What is the meaning of “Feliz Navidad”?

The title of this piece translates to “Merry Christmas”. So that is what is being repeated throughout the song, “Feliz Navidad”, or “I want to wish you a merry Christmas’.

So basically there are two verses, one in Spanish and the other in English, that are repeated throughout. The Spanish features the phrase “Feliz Navidad” uttered three times, with the passage closing out with “próspero año y felicidad” which roughly translates out to “happy New Year and happiness” or, more humanly translated “a prosperous year and happiness”, which is another way of saying ‘have a Happy New Year’. 

And as for the English verses, they are highlighted by the line “I want to wish you a merry Christmas”, with the closing expression in those passages rather being “from the bottom of my heart”.

Takeaway

So putting all of this together, what we have is an earnest expression of good will for the entire Christmas season. And what’s more, the song not only encapsulates Christmas itself but also New Year’s Day, which pops up on the calendar just a week thereafter.

Lyrics of Jose Feliciano's "Feliz Navidad"

Jose Feliciano

The author of “Feliz Navidad” is Jose Feliciano, an artist from Puerto Rico. Feliciano is considered a true pioneer in terms of propagating Latin American music. His early international success made him sort of a mainstay on the American music scene, and relatedly when he wrote this song he was residing in Los Angeles. 

So the sentimental origin of this piece is actually founded in Jose missing his family who were back home in Puerto Rico during Christmastime (on top of being encouraged to actually write a Christmas song). 

Accordingly, it appears that Feliciano’s original intent was to compose “Feliz Navidad” entirely in Spanish. But he included the English lyrics also so that the song would get airplay in the United States.

Feliz Navidad

Facts about “Feliz Navidad”

With “Feliz Navidad” being a Christmas classic and all, scores of other artists have also covered it. Outside of Jose Feliciano himself, the most famous rendition would apparently be that of Boney M. on their 1981 Christmas Album. 

But the original, as rendered by Feliciano, remains the standard version to this day. In other words, it is one of those types of song that continues to chart annually into the 21st century. 

That said, the first appearance of “Feliz Navidad” on the Billboard Hot 100 did not occur until 2017. And it went on to achieve an impressive peak position of number three on said list as recently as early 2021. And so it is with this track’s international chart history, as Jose Feliciano’s “Feliz Navidad” has perennially appeared on music rankings throughout the world, in most cases having fared quite impressively. 

Indeed by the looks of things, this song may never go away.

The producer of the original version of the song was Rick Jarrard. Rick remained a personal friend of Feliciano’s throughout the years and just died a month before the writing of this post in late 2021.

“Feliz Navidad” first came out, as a product of RCA Records, during November of 1970. And in 2020, to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the dropping of the track, Feliciano led a new rendition, this time featuring additional artists including the following:

  • Shaggy
  • Michael Bolton
  • Lin-Manuel Miranda
  • Jason Mraz
Jose Feliciano explains "Feliz Navidad"

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