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Bring a Torch, Jeanette, Isabella
"Bring a Torch, Jeanette, Isabella" originated from the Provence region of France in the 17th century. The carol was first published in France, and was subsequently translated into English in the 18th century. The song was originally not meant to be sung at Christmas; it was considered dance music for French nobility.
The carol first appeared in print with the Provençal text Venès lèu, Vèire la piéucello; Venès lèu, Genti pastourèu! in 1668 in a collection of twelve Provençal noëls by Nicolas Saboly. The popularity of the melody is attested by the fact that it was used four years later by Marc-Antoine Charpentier for the drinking song Qu'ils sont beaux, bouteille jolie in a 1672 revival of Molière's Le médecin malgré lui.
Jeannette and Isabelle/Isabella in the song title are two female farmhands who have found the baby and his mother in a stable. Excited by this discovery, they run to a nearby village to tell the inhabitants, who rush to see the new arrivals. Visitors to the stable are urged to keep their voices quiet, so the newborn can enjoy his dreams.To this day, on Christmas Eve in the Provence region, children dressed as shepherds and milkmaids carry torches and candles while singing the carol, on their way to Midnight Mass.