“The first Noel, the angels did say,
Was to certain poor shepherds in fields as they lay.”
The First Noel is one of the many Christmas carols we hear on repeat during the holiday season. Come to think of it, “Noel” is a word that we hear over and over during Christmas. Who or what is Noel? And what did they have to do with the first Christmas?
We at 1-Hour Proofreading did a bit of research, and we found, well, a lot of things.
The word nowel appears in Middle English and was defined in the 1828 version of Webster’s Dictionary as “a shout of joy or Christmas song.” The word is also in the modern dictionary, meaning either (a) a Christmas carol or (b) the Christmas season. The word appears in other languages too.
In Brazilian Portuguese, Papai Noel means “Father Christmas.” In French, the word Noel means “Christmas season”; hence, the French greet one another “Joyeux Noel” during the holidays. The word Noel is said to have its origins in the Old French word nael, which is derived from the Latin natalis, meaning “birth.” In its core, Christmas is a Christian holiday that celebrates the birth of the Savior, Jesus Christ.
Another possible root of Noel is the French word for news, “nouvelles.” If you look at the lyrics carefully, The First Noel is an announcement that Jesus Christ had been born. Therefore, the carol could be about delivering the news.
So there we have it! Even though we’re used to Noel being used as the name of a person, Noel can also be about the whole Christmas season. The First Noel isn’t about a person; it is a reminder of the true meaning of the holidays: the celebration of hope, love, and happiness.
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