Sunday, December 16, 2012

AIL Day 95 & 96: Yule and Noel

The words I chose for this weekend are part of the rich vocabulary of the Advent season.  They've been with us for so long I know I haven't much concept of their meanings.  So I took this opportunity to do a little digging via Oxford Dictionaries (old habits die hard, I suppose).


Yule is the (archaic) Old English/Old Norse term for Christmas.  More specifically, it refers to a pagan festival that took place around the Winter Solstice and lasted twelve days after what is now Christmas.  When Christianity spread into Europe and the solstice celebrations became celebrations of the birth of Christ, the old name lingered.  So when you hear the phrase "yuletide treasure" in the old song "Deck the Halls", it isn't necessarily a pagan or a secular reference, but a general reference to Christmastime.


A noel is a Christmas carol, particularly the refrain.  So "gloria in excelsis deo" and "come let us adore him" might count as noels.   This is a French version of the Latin word natalis, meaning birth - a birth song.  This makes sense when you think about one of the lesser known Christmas songs "Noel, A New Noel."  I always thought "You mean there were noels before Christ was born?"  Apparently so!

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