Latin Holiday Songs

Collection by Laura Gibbs

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Traditional Latin hymns and carols, plus popular English Christmas songs translated into Latin - and some Polish carols translated into Latin, too! Be sure to click through to the Gaudium Mundo site for all the Latin lyrics and more information about each song: gaudium-mundo.blogspot.com

Laura Gibbs
CHRISTE, REDEMPTOR OMNIUM. The words of this Latin hymn are sometimes attributed to Saint Ambrose.

Christe, Redemptor Omnium

Today's carol is an ancient Latin hymn dating back to the 6th century, and it has formed part of Catholic Vespers during the Christmas season. You can find an English translation at the Preces Latinae website. You can find a MIDI file and sheet music at the Hymns and Carols of Christmas website. The words are sometimes attributed to Saint Ambrose, bishop of Milan in the fourth century. While Ambrose was the author of several hymns in iambic meter with four-line stanzas, as in this hymn, it…

ALMA NOX, TACITA NOX. Listen to a Latin performance of "Silent Night" at YouTube, and sing along with the lyrics.

Silens Nox

To judge by the number of Latin translations I have found online, "Silent Night" must be the most popular English Christmas carol! The English song is a translation of the 19th-century German carol "Stille Nacht, Heilige Nacht." You can find the German lyrics at the Hymns and Carols of Christmas website, along with the lyrics to the English carol, with MIDI files and sheet music. There is also a Wikipedia article about this carol. There is a wonderful legend that says the German original was…

Yes, this really is a plain chant (Gregorian) versino of Reno Erat Rudolphus - Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer in Latin! Soundcloud recording embedded in the blog post. Mirabile visu! Mirabile auditu!

Reno Erat Rudolphus (plain chant version)

Thanks so much to Jonathan Gilbert for alerting me to this plain chant of Rudolphus; for a full view of the image below, visit Eyolf Østrem's website - and be sure to check out this detailed post where he explains how he came to write this delightful piece of music! (image by Mike Oliveri at Flickr)

FRIGUS VIR NIVIS. This is a LATIN translation of the holiday song "Frosty the Snowman."
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Frigus vir nivis

You can read about the English carol Frosty the Snowman at Wikipedia, first recorded by Gene Autry back in 1950. You can also find the English lyrics online. Frigus Vir Nivis (unattributed, at Cantica Adventus) Frigus vir nivis Erat hilaris, felix Cum suo pipo et naso parvo Et carbonis oculis. Frigus vir nivis Est fabula mira; Fit nivis sed liberi sapiunt Eum vixisse quondam. Existet est vis mira In petaso invento, Nam hunc cum ill' induissent Tum circumsaluit. O, Frigus vir nivis Erat quam…

TINNITUS, TINNITUS. Here you can find three (!) different LATIN versions of the popular holiday song "Jingle Bells."

Tinnitus, Tinnitus

Today's holiday song, "Jingle Bells," originally entitled "The One Horse Open Sleigh," was first published in 1857. You can find the English lyrics, MIDI files and sheet music at the Hymns and Carols of Christmas website. There is also a Wikipedia article about this carol. I've found several different versions online. The first version is partial, while the other version is more complete. In addition, there is a "Horse-Race Song," Carmen Circense, by T.W. Melluish, which uses the melody and…

DUODECIM DIES NATALIS. Here are two (!) Latin versions of the popular Christmas song "The Twelve Days of Christmas."
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XII Dies Natalis

The "Twelve Days of Christmas" is an English song that probably dates back to the 18th century. The "Twelve Days" of Christmas is the holiday extending from Christmas until the feast day of Epiphany. You can learn more about the "Twelfth Night" tradition in an article at Wikipedia. There is also a Wikipedia article about this carol. You can find the English lyrics to the carol, with MIDI files and sheet music, at the Hymns and Carols of Christmas website, along with detailed notes about the…

AULD LANG SYNE. This is a Latin translation of this familiar song... Num amicorum veterum / decet oblivisci? :-)

Auld Lang Syne

For this holiday song, I found a Latin translation of the song, "Auld Lang Syne." You can find the traditional lyrics at the Hymns and Carols of Christmas website, along with the version containing additional stanzas added by the Scottish poet Robert Burns in 1788. There's also a very handy explanation in modern English of what the Scottish words mean! In addition, you can consult the Wikipedia article about this song, which includes the Old Long Syne version by James Watson from 1711, in…

LAPSI CAELO SUPER GENTES. A Latin version of "Angels We Have Heard on High" - new verses just added.

Lapsi Caelo Super Gentes

The famous English carol "Angels We Have Heard On High" is actually an English translation of an 18th-century French carol, "Les anges dans nos campagnes." In the English carol (and also in the French carol), the refrain is usually sung in Latin: Gloria in excelsis Deo. You can find the English lyrics along with a MIDI music file and sheet music at the Hymns and Carols of Christmas website. This site also provides the words to the French carol. There is music with four-part harmony at the…

O PARVE VICE BETHLEHEM. There are several different Latin translations of "Little Town of Bethlehem" to choose from, and a YouTube video to sing along with!

O Parve Vice Bethlehem

"O Little Town of Bethlehem" is another very popular English carol, and I've found three different translations into Latin online. The English carol dates back to the year 1868, and you can find the lyrics, MIDI files and sheet music at the Hymns and Carols of Christmas website. There is also a Wikipedia article about this carol. The author of the carol, Phillips Brooks, actually traveled to Palestine, and was in Bethlehem during Christmas week in 1865, although he did not compose the carol…

HODIE CHRISTUS NATUS EST. Visit the blog post for a YouTube performance that you can listen to and sing along with.

Hodie Christus natus est

You can read about the medieval carol, Hodie Christus natus est, at the Hymns and Carols of Christmas website , which also provides an Engli...

ANGELI CANUNT PRAECONES. Sing along to "Hark the Herald Angels Sing" with two different Latin versions of the carol.

Angeli Canunt Praecones

"Hark! The Herald Angels Sing" is a very well-known English Christmas carol, and I've found two different Latin translations online. You can find information about the English carol at the Hymns and Carols of Christmas website, along with alternate English verses plus sheet music. There is also a Wikipedia article about this carol. Here are the two different Latin versions I found online: Version 1 (Translated by Robert J.M. Lindsay) Angeli canunt praecones nuper natum Dominum, pacem nobis…

VENI REDEMPTOR GENTIUM. This is a Latin hymn attributed to Saint Ambrose.

Veni Redemptor Gentium

You can read about the hymn attributed to Ambrose of Milan, Veni Redemptor Gentium, at the Hymns and Carols of Christmas website, which also has a MIDI file of the melody, along with various English translations, including one by J. M. Neale. Veni Redemptor Gentium 1. Veni, Redemptor gentium; Ostende partum virginis; Miretur omne saeculum. Talis decet partus Deo. 2. Non ex virili semine, Sed mystico spiramine Verbum Dei tactum est caro, Fructusque ventris floruit. 3. Alvus tumescit virginis…

QUAE STELLA SOLE PULCHRIOR. There is a lovely recording of this Christmas song on this album by the Neterlands Chamber Choir; MP3 download (single song) at Amazon.

Quae stella sole pulchrior

You can read about the song by Charles Coffin, Quae stella sole pulchrior, at the Hymns and Carols of Christmas website, which also has a MIDI file of the melody, along with various English translations, such as What Star is This, with Beams so Bright?. You can hear a lovely performance of the song on this album by the Netherlands Chamber Choir: Mirabile Mysterium: Christmas Music Through the Ages. Quae stella sole pulchrior Quae stella sole pulchrior Coruscat? haec Regis novi Revelat ortus…

IN DULCI IUBILO. This is one of my favorite Latin Christmas songs! It was later adapted into the English carol "Good Christian Men, Rejoice!"

In Dulci Iubilo

"In Dulci Iubilo" began in the 14th century as a macaronic song, mixing German together with Latin. The composition is attributed to the German mystic Heinrich Suso who is supposed to have had a vision of angels and to have heard them singing. He joined in the dance of the angels and then recorded the experience in this mixed German and Latin song. There is also a Wikipedia article about the carol itself. This German-Latin song was extremely popular, and inspired an English-Latin macaronic…

REX WENCESLAUS. This is a LATIN version of the holiday song "Good King Wenceslas."

Rex Wenceslaus

The English carol "Good King Wenceslas" was written by John Mason Neale, and first published in 1853. The music is based on a medieval song of spring. You can find the English lyrics along with music files and sheet music at the Hymns and Carols of Christmas website. There is also a Wikipedia article about this carol. The story of King Wenceslas has become connected with the Christmas holiday season because the feast of Saint Stephen, mentioned in the carol, falls on December 26. The legend…

O LUX BEATA TRINITAS. You can hear a performance of this Gregorian chant at YouTube.

O Lux beata Trinitas

You can read about this hymn attributed to Saint Ambrose, O Lux Beata Trinitas, at the Hymns and Carols of Christmas website. O Lux beata Trinitas O Lux beata Trinitas, et principalis Unitas, iam sol recedit igneus, infunde lumen cordibus. Te mane laudum carmine, te deprecemur vespere: te nostra supplex gloria per cuncta laudet saecula. Deo Patri sit gloria, eiusque soli Filio, cum Spiritu Paraclito, et nunc, et in perpetuum. (Saint Ambrose)