Feliz Navidad: 12 Songs for a Latin Christmas
As predictable as a Christmas tree in the corner of the living room, the holiday evergreen "Feliz Navidad" has ensured that Merry Christmas is one phrase that everyone can say in Spanish. But José Feliciano’s modern classic is just the start of a Latin Christmas songbook that includes holiday standards made new with Latin rhythms, and romantic Spanish vocals that are hotter than that open fire. Here are twelve songs for your own feliz Navidad:
Alejandro Sanz - "Noche de Luz"
This soulful Christmas song shows Spanish pop star Alejandro Sanz in his most flamenco mood. Accompanied by handclapping back-up singers and guitar as well as a string ensemble, Sanz performed "Noche de Luz" at a concert at the Vatican in 2001. This little-known track is a must for an intimate Christmas Eve. What can we say but ole Alejandro, ole!
Juanes - "Burrito de Belen"
Also known as "Mi Burrito Sabanero" or "El Tuqui Tuqui," "El Burrito de Belen" is a Christmas standard in Latin America. Juanes’ recorded his rootsy version of the catchy song for a 2006 Latin pop Christmas album. This video is worth watching just to see Juanes keeping a straight face as he sings the "Tuqui tuqui tuqui tuqui, Tuqui tuqui tuqui tá" chorus.
Willie Colon/Hector Lavoe - "La Murga"
"La Murga" is arguably the coolest Christmas song ever recorded in Spanish, and its trombone intro is one of the most recognized. Willie Colon and Hector Lavoe's take on the Panamanian carnival band music sounds as hot now as it did when they recorded it as part of their 1970 Fania "Asalto Navideño" album at the height of New York’s pioneering hard salsa scene.
Prince Royce - "Mi Regalo Favorito"
Bachata-pop idol Prince Royce joined the Christmas canon this year with "Mi Regalo Favorito." Now where’s that mistletoe, baby?
El Gran Combo - "La Fiesta de Pilito"
Nobody does a family celebration song like El Gran Combo de Puerto Rico. This juicy salsa track name checks all that holiday food you’ll be dancing off as you listen to it.
Moderratto - "Ya Llego la Navidad"
Moderratto, a longstanding camp glam band from Mexico City, penned their ode to holiday excess to the tune of "Jingle Bells." The video’s a fabulous mess, featuring girls in bikinis and Santa hats, a decadent banquet, drum solos, a lot of eyeliner and glitter and a bunch of electric guitars.
La Sonora Matancera with Celia Cruz - "Navidad Feliz" (Jingle Bells)
A young Celia Cruz brought the azucar to "Jingle Bells" in this 1958 version, when Cruz was singing with the great dance band Sonora Matancera. Catch some great footage of Cuban Christmas past in this video.
Andrea Boccelli - "Navidad Blanca"
Italian crooner Andrea Boccelli puts his special sugar on this Spanish version of "White Christmas."
Arthur Hanlon - "Navidad, Navidad"
Pianist Arthur Hanlon joined with singer Dulce Maria from the Mexican teen pop group RBD and Venezuelan heartthrobs Chino y Nacho for a sassy Spanish version of "Jingle Bells."
Silvio Rodriguez - "Cancion de Navidad"
Cuban singer/songwriter Silvio Rodriguez released "Cancion de Navidad" in 1988. Rodriguez’s ballad is a poetic critique of consumerism, and while essentially it’s an anti-Christmas song, it’s a beautiful reminder of the season’s basic values.
Jenni Rivera - "Amarga Navidad"
The late Jenni Rivera didn’t have a problem speaking her mind, and her songs never lacked drama. In this "Bitter Christmas" ballad, she implores her lover to end their tortured relationship and leave her on Christmas Eve. Singing it loud with a glass in hand could be the best anecdote there is to holiday blues.
José Feliciano - "Feliz Navidad"
You may be think you’re tired of hearing it, but can you help but sing it? The simple bilingual tune that José Feliciano wrote in 1970 is still the go-to Latin Christmas song.The song is currently No. 1 on the Billboard Latin Digital Songs chart, coming in at no. 10 on the Holiday Digital Songs chart.