Christmas In Latin, “Gaudete” and “In Dulci Jubilo”

We had a really long round trip yesterday clocking up over 200 miles, and all because it’s the time of year when you really need to touch base with family in other parts of the country. We were lucky in that the day we picked for our drive was a good one with clear skies and no rain. We passed lots of familiar landmarks and although you don’t actually pass through them any more, we skirted the edge of the village where I grew up, and the town where I went to secondary school. I was reminded of the happy times spent there (yes I was one of the lucky ones) and of the many friends made over the years.

Like most of us I had a favourite teacher and my one happened to teach Latin. She had finished her training the year we moved up to the academy, so was still only 22 when she was entrusted with filling our 12-year-old brains with the language of the Romans. Can’t say I ever used my Latin much and have forgotten most of it, but something I will never forget is the opening page of Ecce Romani Textbook 1. These books told stories of a family who lived in a fine villa with an atrium (a new word to us back then but a fairly commonplace feature now in hotels and office blocks). There was the father Gaius Cornelius, the mother Aurelia and their four children, but also living with them was the tutor Euclydes and not surprisingly, it being ancient Rome an’ all, Davus the slavus. If I remember correctly the opening chapter read as follows:

Ecce, in pictura est puella. Puella est Cornelia. Cornelia est puella parva, sed etium in pictura est puella magna. Puella magna est Flavia…. and so it went on teaching us the words for “look” (ecce), “girl” (puella), “small” (parva), “big” (magna), “but also” (sed etium), et cetera (not et cetera yet actually, but you know what I mean).


But this of course is a music blog so how the heck do I get from the Ecce Romani Latin textbooks to a festive song pick. Well as luck would have it in 1973, our second year of being taught Latin by the lovely Miss Fraser (whose platform shoes, midi skirts and tank tops were the envy of all the girls in the class), the British folk rock group Steeleye Span had a chart hit with Gaudete, a sacred Christmas carol with lyrics in Latin. The Ecce Romani books were cast aside for a whole lesson whilst we grappled with the task of translating the song into English.

As I don’t have any Steeleye Span in my digital database, I am going to have to add another festive offering. Gaudete is one of only three top 50 British hits to be sung in Latin, but in 1975 Mike Oldfield had a top 10 hit with In Dulci Jubilo. This time the Latin song was performed purely as an instrumental and it licks along at a fair old pace making me feel quite Christmassy (at last).

I could have shared a boring old clip featuring pictures of Mike Oldfield, but no, as it’s Christmas I will add a clip showcasing the talents of Pans People, the Top Of The Pops in-house dance troupe, whose very literal routines delighted the viewing public every Thursday between 1970 and 1976. In this routine they are wearing diaphanous white garments as opposed to the skimpy bikinis they were often probably forced into wearing. A jaunty festive frolic this time with a blinking great Christmas tree getting in the way for much of it – Enjoy.

In Dulci Jubilo by Mike Oldfield:

Not sure if I’ll return with anything else before the big day so time to wish everyone a Merry Christmas from all of us here at WIAA. A bit thin on the ground this year what with DD having moved to the other end of the country and my little mum in the care home, but that’s just how life works, always change. Luckily for us DD is due to arrive home with her boyfriend on Christmas Eve so looking forward to that very much. With any luck some of their friends will turn up for a visit and it will be like old times again, old times I’ve missed very much of late.

Have a good one. Until next time….


Gaudete Lyrics
(Medieval song of praise)

Gaudete, gaudete, Christus est natus
Ex Maria virgine, gaudete
Gaudete, gaudete, Christus est natus
Ex Maria virgine, gaudete

Tempus adest gratiae, hoc quod optabamus
Carmina laetitiae devote redamus

Gaudete, gaudete, Christus est natus
Ex Maria virgine, gaudete
Gaudete, gaudete, Christus est natus
Ex Maria virgine, gaudete

Deus homo factus est natura mirante
Mundus renovatus est a Christo regnante

Gaudete, gaudete, Christus est natus
Ex Maria virgine, gaudete
Gaudete, gaudete, Christus est natus
Ex Maria virgine, gaudete

Ezechielis porta clausa per transitur
Unde lux est orta salus invenitur

Gaudete, gaudete, Christus est natus
Ex Maria…

Author: Alyson

Whenever I hear an old song on the radio, I am immediately transported back to those days - I know I'm not alone here and want to record those memories for myself and for the people in them. 50 years ago the song "Alfie" was written by my favourite songwriting team Bacharach and David - The opening line to that song was "What's it all about?" and I'm hoping that by writing this blog, I might find the answer to that question.

20 thoughts on “Christmas In Latin, “Gaudete” and “In Dulci Jubilo””

    1. There you are again throwing in a comment that you’ve actually seen the band I’m writing about back in the day. I suspect you went to a fair few concerts back then. Think their style would have suited Massachusetts as that’s pretty much the oldest part of New England settled in by Brits.

      Thanks for dropping by and Festive Greetings from Scotland.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. When our girls were little, the headmaster at their school was part of a local Early Music group. Our Lass and I were fascinated by their use of old instruments, so would eagerly seek out any live performances by the group. At Christmas time, the set would include the Boar’s Head Carol with its chorus of “Caput apri defero, Reddens laudes Domino.” or “I bring in the boar’s head, giving thanks to the Lord.” These days I struggle with Latin, not having pursued it as a subject any longer than I had to, but I do have some fun working out translations of the taxonomic names of the wildlife we encounter.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I like the sound of some of those old instruments and can imagine some of the musicians looked a bit like the folk in Steeleye Span. My maths teacher was also in a jazz band and every now and again he would go into the classroom cupboard for textbooks but instead come out playing his saxophone – Another great teacher.

      As for the Latin, I studied it for 4 years and for a fair while it was useful in helping decipher the meaning behind an unusual word in English. Pretty much forgotten it all now but I will never forget those lines about the small girl and the big girl (and of course Davus the slavus).


  2. I saw Steeleye Span on their ‘All Around My Hat’ UK Tour back in 1974 at the Aberdeen Capitol. My favourite song of theirs is “Cam Ye Ower Fae France”, guaranteed to stir the blood! And they do a great version of “Rogues in a Nation”, very appropriate given recent election and referendum results…

    Every now and then I get very nationalistic and play “Johnnie Cope/The Atholl Highlanders” by The Tannahill Weavers at full volume and imagine I’m invading England!

    Have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year fan it comes (Old Aberdeen saying).

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Someone else who saw Steeleye Span back in the day. She is an excellent singer Maddy Prior, and her voice is perfect for songs such as All Around My Hat. I always think folkie type songs like that are so easy to sing along to as they go up and down in all the right places – No surprises, they just canter along nicely.

      All for the clip, you are right there – Rousing stuff. We always go to our neighbours for Hogmanay and there are usually a few musical instruments on hand. The best is the bodhran which is great for playing along to such songs. We better be careful though as we have many English blogging buddies and they probably don’t like the sound of invasion from north of the wall. They are very welcome to come up to join us however if it all gets too much down in the land of the blue.

      Merry Christmas to you too and coming from the Aberdeen area myself, I know all about the fans, the fits and the foos. Happy New Year fan it comes!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Technically there are only 2, but Pie Jesu was recorded by both Sarah Brightman and Paul Miles-Kingston. Oh What A Circus by David Essex (from Evita) does also include a chant in Latin however.


  3. Since 1988, I’ve been going to Fairport Convention’s annual festival. Apart from the music, there is great humour. The last (of several) times Steeleye Span played there, they were inspiration for the following tribute (watch the whole thing):

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Oh Alyson, so sorry for not having seen this post until now! It didn’t appear in my automatic reading list and so only now by actively visiting your blog – as I was wondering if I’d missed an update..but just assumed it was because you’d been too busy – do I find this! How very strange. Anyway I know we touched base elsewhere but I would have wanted to wish you a happy Christmas on these pages so will do so belatedly now!

    You brought back some memories with your reference to Latin classes.. I too had them in secondary school but with an ogre of a teacher to start with who scared me rigid, then she left and was replaced by a very timid one so I got away with not doing my homework, etc. and totally lost interest (not that I’d ever been interested in the first place) – then I quickly became a lost cause. I was allowed to give it up and study German instead, which certainly had far more interesting text books, and none of that irrelevant stuff about slaves and centurions… I don’t think we had the pleasure of meeting Gaius Cornelius.
    Unfortunately I can’t hear Gaudete these days without thinking of Alan Partridge singing it in his car!
    Happy New Year… yes I’m too early now… but better than too late!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. No need to apologise as I know the Christmas Wishes were done elsewhere (several times possibly) before the big day.

      I have such fond memories of that Latin class because of the lovely teacher and once we got to 3rd/4th year there were only about 10 of us in the class so half the time was spent discussing fashion and school gossip – Her Head of Dept. would have been horrified but we all passed our exam so must have worked. I remember once writing out a whole page of “seen work” (where the translation has already been done) substituting the names of Caesar and his army for Miss Fraser and the class – We were all heading into battle lead by Miss Fraser and it turned out to be really amusing – Wish I still had a copy but sadly in those pre-digital days once hard copies were handed over we never saw them again.

      That Alan Partridge has a lot to answer for – So many songs now just remind us of his interpretation – See 0:40 in this clip!


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