Andy Sullivan: Against The Grain
This final week before Christmas, I’ll wrap up my chronicle of classic Christmas songs
with not one, not two, but three! Two of them are by Stevie Wonder so we’ll start with
“What Christmas Means To Me”.
“What Christmas Means To Me” is the name of several Christmas songs. The most-
covered version was written by Allen Story, Anna Gordy Gaye and George Gory. It has
been recorded by many artists including Stevie Wonder (1967) on Someday at
Christmas, Paul Young(1992) on A Very Special Christmas, Hanson(1997) on Snowed
In, Darlene Love on 2007’s It’s Christmas, Of Course, I won’t go over all of the
covers(there are 37). Clearly people all over love this song. I’m partial to Stevie’s
Someday at Christmas is the eighth studio album by Stevie Wonder, first released on
November 27, 1967 by Motown Records under its Tamla imprint, produced by Henry
Crosby, it marked Wonder’s first Christmas album. Someday at Christmas consists of 12
tracks, featuring four cover versions of Christmas standards and carols, as well as eight
original songs, chiefly penned by Ron Miller and his wife Aurora as well as Bryan and
Deborah Wells, including the title track and “What Christmas Means To Me”. “Twinkle
Twinkle Little Me” has been included two years earlier on The Supremes’ Christmas
album Merry Christmas.
Upon its original release, “Someday At Christmas” failed to chart in the United States,
although it peaked at #50 on the Swedish Album Chart. It has since been released
multiple times, most recently in 2003 as part of Universal Music’s Christmas edition of
their successful 20 th Century Masters series, including additional tracks. In 2020, it
peaked at #28 on the U.S. Top Holliday Albums. The title track was previously released
as a single in 1966 and reached #24 on Billboard’s Christmas Singles chart that year.
I’ll wrap up my Christmas song chronicles with “Feliz Navidad”. It means Merry
Christmas. The song was written and recorded in 1970 by Puerto Rican singer-
songwriter Jose Feliciano. With its simple, heartfelt lyrics-the traditional Spanish
Christmas/New Year greeting “Feliz Navidad, prospero anyo y Felicidad”(Merry
Christmas, a prosperous year and happiness) followed by text in English “I wanna wish
you a Merry Christmas from the bottom of my heart”-it has become a Christmas classic
and has gained popularity around the world.
Feliciano says he recorded the song while feeling homesick at Christmas, missing his
family in New York City and extended family further afield as he sat in a studio in Los
Angeles. He remembered celebrating Christmas Eve with his brothers, eating
traditional Puerto Rican foods, drinking rum and going caroling. “It was expressing the
joy I felt on Christmas and the fact that I felt very lonely”, he told NPR in December
2020. “I missed my family. I missed Christmas carols with them. I missed the whole
Feliciano’s 1970 recording of “Feliz Navidad” is one of the most downloaded and aired
Christmas songs in the United States and Canada. As of November 2016, total sales of
the digital track stood at 808,000 downloads according to Nielsen SoundScan, placing it
8 th on the list of all-time best-selling Christmas/holiday digital singles in SoundScan
history. It was also recognized by ASCAP as one of the 25 most played and recorded
Christmas songs around the world.
The original version of “Feliz Navidad” first charted on any of the US Billboard music
charts more than two decades after it was recorded, first on the Adult Contemporary
chart on the week ending January 3, 1998(reaching #18) and then on the Radio Songs
chart the following week(reaching #70), Two years later on the week ending January 8,
2000, the song re-entered the Billboard Adult Contemporary chart at #12.
Nearly twenty years later, the song entered the main Billboard Hot 100 chart for the first
time, on the week ending January 7, 2017 at #44. December 22, 2018, the song re-
charted at #42. The next week, it became Feliciano’s first top 40 hit since 1968 (his
excellent cover of the Doors’ “Light My Fire”) by climbing to #34. December 5, 2020,
the song re-entered at #45. Two weeks later, “Feliz Navidad” climbed to an all-time
chart peak position of #6 on the Hot 100. US Holliday chart-peaked at #3. US Billboard
Hot 100-peaked at #6. The song was certified Platinum in Australia, Denmark, Italy
and the U.K. The song was certified Gold in New Zealand.
In the spirit of the song, I want to wish everyone a Merry Christmas from the bottom of
m heart! Feliz Navidad!