This bilingual holiday classic comprises a simple English verse with a Spanish chorus, "Feliz Navidad, próspero año y felicidad" that translates as "Merry Christmas, a prosperous year and happiness." The song's composer, Puerto Rican singer-songwriter José Feliciano, told Billboard magazine: "If I had left 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."
Feliciano's original recording is the title track of his 1970 album. Other artists that have covered the tune include Boney M, Michael Bublé featuring Thalía and Celine Dion. It has also been performed on Glee.
The song is one of the most downloaded and aired Christmas songs in the USA, and features in the performance rights organization ASCAP's December 2014 list of the top 30 most performed holiday songs of all time, coming in at #21.
To English speakers, the title sounds like it could be a girl's name (Felice Navidad). This is often used as comedy fodder in movies and TV shows.
Bob Rivers did a parody of this song called "Police Stop My Car," which is all about getting pulled over for DUI.
José Feliciano's original version of the song first charted on the Billboard Hot 100 in early 1998, peaking at #70. It returned to the Billboard Hot 100 on the chart dated the week of January 7, 2017 reaching #44. The classic bilingual Christmas tune finally reached the top 10 of the Billboard Hot 100 50 years after its release, on the chart dated December 19, 2020.