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The First Noel
"The First Nowell" (also written "The First NoŽl" or "The First Noel") is of Cornish origin. Its current form was first published in Carols Ancient and Modern (1823) and Gilbert and Sandys Carols (1833), both of which were edited by William Sandys and arranged, edited and with extra lyrics written by Davies Gilbert for Hymns and Carols of God. Nowell is an Early Modern English synonym of "Christmas" from French NoŽl "the Christmas season", ultimately from Latin natalis [dies] "[day] of birth". The word was regularly used in the burden of carols in the middle ages towards the early modern period; Sir ChristŤmas, "Nowell sing we now all and some" and "Nowel - out of youre slepe arise and wake" being 15th century examples.
The melody is unusual among English folk melodies in that it consists of one musical phrase repeated twice, followed by a refrain which is a variation on that phrase. All three phrases end on the third of the scale.
The Annunciation to the shepherds and the Adoration of the shepherds are episodes in the Nativity of Jesus described in the second chapter of the Gospel of Luke (Luke 2). The Star of Bethlehem appears in the story of the Magi in the Gospel of Matthew; it does not appear in the story of the shepherds.
In common with many traditional songs and carols the lyrics vary across books.