Christmas Songs

By: Gail Cohen & Gilbert DeBenedetti

'The First Noel'

©2006 Publications International, Ltd.

In the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, Mystery Plays -- dramatizations of biblical stories -- were quite popular. A favorite play topic was Jesus' birth. These events were often orchestrated by singers, writers, and musicians.

Possibly of French or English origin ("Noel" is French for "Christmas"), "The First Noel" remains a descendant of these productions. Words added by William Sandys for his 1833 compendium of hymns, Christmas Carols, Ancient and Modern, mark the first time that the lyrics and music were published together.


"The First Noel" Lyrics

1. The first Noel the angels did say,

was to certain poor shepherds in fields where they lay.

In fields where they lay keeping their sheep,

On a cold winter's night that was so deep.

Noel, Noel, Noel, Noel,

Born is the King of Israel.

2. They looked up and saw a star

Shining in the East beyond them far,

And to the earth it gave great light,

And so it continued both day and night.

Noel, Noel, Noel ...

3. This star drew nigh to the northwest,

O'er Bethlehem it took its rest.

And there it did both stop and stay

Right over the place where Jesus lay.

Noel, Noel, Noel ...

Christmas sheet music: "The First Noel"

Jesus' message of liberation for all people is depicted in a powerful manner in the next song, "Go, Tell It on the Mountain." Read about this joyous song on the following page.