The First Noel
This joyful Christmas carol is of unknown origin. The words are from a collection dated 1823, and the music was published a decade later. Its form has remained basically unchanged for more than a century and a half.
The word “Nowell” is the Old English form of the Old French “Nouel.” The Latin form was “Natalis,” the Spanish “Natal,” and the Italian “Natale.” It was an expression of joy, originally shouted or sung to commemorate the birth of Christ.