25# Feliz Navidad! (Próspero año y felicidad)4 min read
Here’s the surprising history behind your favorite Christmas Carols!
What if “The Red-Nosed Reindeer”, Frosty and the “One Horse Open Sleigh” had nothing to do with Christmas?
Singing Christmas songs goes hand in hand with baking Christmas treats, listening our favorite Christmas tales, watching our favorite Christmas movies, and not only.
Like everything around this period of the year, everything has a story.
From songs that have been saved from being erased forever to not really knowing for sure where a song came from, here is the history of a few Christmas Carols you know and sing still today!
Enjoy our Advent Calendar 2022!
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The Christmas season would not be complete without hearing the joyful strains of Feliz Navidad emanating from homes, cars, shopping centers, supermarkets and more.
Despite its simple lyrics, it has become one of the most popular and beloved Christmas songs of all time.
But what do the lyrics of Feliz Navidad actually mean?
And where did the song come from?
José Feliciano wrote the song to unite people with its holiday cheer and its bilingual lyrics — both in Spanish and English.
And now, more than fifty years later, “Feliz Navidad” remains as popular as ever.
It’s appeared in movies and TV shows, and It’s been covered by musical artists like Celine Dion, Kacey Musgraves and BTS.
And it’s been heard on the radio by an estimated 3.8 billion people, where “Feliz Navidad” remains one of the top 10 best-performing songs on its Holiday 100 chart.
And so, mission accomplished.
José Feliciano insisted his ‘Feliz Navidad’ has both Spanish and English lyrics ‘If I had just done it in Spanish, the English-speaking radio stations wouldn’t have played it because it was only Spanish,’ he said.
The Puerto Rico native has family in Southwest Florida and even lived in Lehigh Acres at one point.
His “Feliz Navidad” is one of the most played and recorded Christmas songs in the world, and It was part of his 1970 self-titled holiday album, later renamed “Feliz Navidad.”
The song wasn’t an immediate hit, though.
But step by step the song has charted on the Billboard Hot 100 many times over the year, and it’s appeared in movies such as “The Grinch” and in TV shows from “All in the Family” to “Glee”, and now is a beloved holiday favorite for listeners around the world.
Over the last years it was performed in nearly 90 countries, from Argentina to Canada, Norway, Israel, South Africa, India, Japan and New Zealand, to name a few.
About its history, a producer urged Feliciano to write an original Christmas song for his 1970 holiday album, and he said he came up with “Feliz Navidad” within minutes.
And he wrote it bilingual so that radio stations had no excuse but to play it.
Feliciano wanted a song that would unite all people with its positive message and bilingual lyrics.
“My thought when I wrote the song was that it didn’t matter what language you were singing in,” he told in an interview, “the feeling of Christmas is privy to all of us.”
He also said he was stuck in a Los Angeles recording studio and he missed his 11 brothers and extended family.
They had always celebrated Noche Buena, otherwise known as Christmas Eve, by drinking rum, caroling and eating traditional Puerto Rican dishes.
And eventually he ended up channeling those feelings into his “Feliz Navidad.”
He sang the song and also played guitar and cuatro, a traditional, 10-stringed Puerto Rican instrument that his uncle had taught him.
It’s a simple song, just 19 words in English and Spanish, repeated over a 3-minute run time.
Only six of those words are in Spanish: “Feliz Navidad, próspero año y felicidad,” translated as “Merry Christmas, prosperous year and happiness.”
The other 13 words are English: “I wanna wish you a merry Christmas, from the bottom of my heart.”
Besides “Feliz Navidad,” the Puerto Rican-born performer had other hits in the ’60s and ’70s, including his No. 1 cover of The Doors’ “Light My Fire” in 1968 and the hit theme song for the ’70s TV show “Chico and the Man.”
He’s won three Grammy Awards, and Guitar Player magazine lists him in its “Gallery of Greats.”
He has said he’s proud of “Feliz Navidad,” but he’s also frustrated by its legacy, because many people know that song and little else.
He said he prefers to be famous for other reasons, like his cover of The Doors’ “Light My Fire,” or for being the first successful rock musician to play a nylon string guitar.
Still, more than 50 years after recording the song, he says he’s come to terms with “Feliz Navidad” and its fame, and he just want the song to be remembered.
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