Just What IS a “Noel?”

Posted on Wednesday, December 24th, 2014 at 1:23pm.

Ever wonder? Aside from a song that is sung during the holidays, have you ever wondered what a “Noel” is? First, it’s a French word that roughly means “Christmas season,” and our English version comes from the Middle English word “nowel,” meaning “a shout of joy.”

If you dig way back into the etymology you’ll get to the Latin origination – “natalis,” meaning “birth.”

As for “The First Noel,” the song that is so popular during the holidays? “It was first published in a book titled “Ancient and Modern,” edited by William Sandys in 1823,” according to GotQuestions.org.

There are lots of words we associate with the music we listen to and sing at Christmas and other winter holidays and we seldom stop to wonder why. Let’s take a look at some of those.


We know that we sing carols during the holidays but why aren’t songs we sing during other times of the year known as “carols?”

Don’t know. What I do know is that in the Middle Ages, any celebratory song was considered a “carol.” Somewhere along the line, however, even “Auld Lang Syne” was relegated to a non-carol and only those we sing during Christmas get to wear the label.

Auld Lang Syne

While not a Christmas carol, singing or playing the song “Auld Lang Syne” is a tradition at the stroke of midnight on December 31/January 1. What does it mean?

The song originated in Scotland (Robert Burns wrote it in the 1700s) and the title means “times gone by.” So, when you “take a cup of kindness yet, for Auld Lang Syne,” you’re toasting the year that’s ending.

According to ABC News, Burns didn’t intend for his tune to be associated with New Year’s Eve. It was Guy Lombardo that ushered in that tradition, back in 1929.

And, if you don’t know the words, don’t feel bad – apparently most of us don’t and those that do are usually so muddled by midnight they forget the words.

Happy Holidays from the Kris Lindahl Team!


Image: “Noel Greeting Card”/Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.

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