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10 Facts You Didn’t Know Behind “Feliz Navidad”

“Feliz Navidad” on Spotify. Photo by Vivian Wang.

Feliz navidad, prospero año y felicidad!

That’s the lyrics to “Feliz Navidad,” a classic hit known to every American across the United States. It’s in every holiday playlist you can find on streaming services and exists in just about every Christmas album ever recorded. But just how did this song make its way into being one of America’s top Christmas hits? Here are some fun facts.

1. Singer songwriter José Feliciano wanted both English and Spanish lyrics. “If I had left it in Spanish only, then I knew the English stations might not play it, so I decided to write an English lyric, ‘I want to wish you a merry Christmas.’ And then there was no way the stations could lock that song out of the programming,” he told Billboard Magazine.

2. Feliciano was born blind. The Puerto Rican native could not see due to congenial glaucoma, but that didn’t stop him from pursuing music. His family later moved to Harlem, New York City, where Feliciano would play at the Teatro Puerto Rico in the Bronx.

2. The song first appeared in 1970, making it one of the oldest Christmas hits still trending today. Do the math: that was 48 years ago. Forty-eight!

3. In 1997, Bob Rivers further popularized the song with a parody song titled “Police Stop My Car.” Rivers made it about driving under the influence (which may not be the most appropriate, but it delivers some hearty laughs). They want to wish me a sober Christmas, that’s why they always pull me over on Christmas… (see parody video here).

4. “Feliz Navidad” reached #70 on the the Billboard’s Top 100 chart in 1998. In January 2017, it reached #44.

5. According to the performing rights organization ASCAP, it is one of the most downloaded and broadcasted holiday songs in America. In the Top 30 most performed holiday songs of all time, it ranks #21.

6. According to Sverigetopplistan record charts, it is the #1 Christmas song in Sweden. Yes, Sweden. Who knew!

7. Hyundai used the Christmas classic in one of their 2011 car ads. It was a cute commercial featuring a father-daughter duo singing in the back trunk of a Hyundai car while the father strummed his guitar. And no surprise, it was a huge hit. See the video here.

8. The cast of Glee featured “Feliz Navidad” in the tenth episode of season four. The clip was shot in black and white with Artie Abrams, played by Kevin McHale.

9. Lyrics “Feliz Navidad, próspero año y felicidad” mean “Merry Christmas, a prosperous new year and happiness.” Fairly straightforward!

10. Jose Feliciano is still performing today. In fact, he has concerts lined up this weekend in New York City, followed by a performance in San Diego before he hits Europe. You can find his performance schedule online by visiting his website.

Gwen Stefani and Mon Laferte also paired up as a duo to perform the classic hit on The Voice earlier this week:

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Vivian Wang

Vivian is a travel enthusiast and food connoisseur living in New York City. Her curiosity and passion for languages and culture has taken her across eight countries over the past year. When not working, you can find her meandering in art museums or sampling food at the street markets.

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