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A French-Inspired Garden and Home by Judith Stringham

N is for Noël

Monday, November 27, 2023

N is for Noël is part of a series of 26 posts of Christmas traditions from A to Z.  Noël is French for Christmas, and one prominent use of Noël in English Christmas traditions is in the  beautiful Christmas carol, "The First Noël."  

is for Noël.

Noël not only means Christmas. Noël can also mean Christmas carol. For centuries Christmas carols were sung in Latin or Old French. English speakers began using Nowell, an older spelling of Noël, to refer to carols in the 18th century. As late as the 20th century, the carol "The First Noël" was sometimes titled as "The First Nowell." 

Today the usual translation for the word Noël is Christmas with the French phrase, Joyeux Noël, the most frequent use of Noël by English speakers. 

However, the word Noël used by itself often shows up in Christmas decorations. Since English does not use the double "dot" above the French "ë" in spelling English words, Noel in English usually leaves off the double "dot" above the "e." 

Another common spelling of Noel today is to use all lower case letters in decorations like in a table place setting. Using all lower case letters occurs with many terms today that in the past were capitalized and are still capitalized in a different use of the term. 

A single bright red "noel" on a preserved boxwood wreath instantly identifies a table setting as Christmas. 

Place cards with the word Noel are another way to add holiday style to a table set with simple white everyday dishes. From everyday to Christmas instantly. 

Noel also appears in English Christmas ornaments used on tables as well as trees. 

Seasonal greeting cards, gift cards, and small paper cards used solely for holiday decorations are other places the single word Noel adds Christmas style. 

Christmas ornaments with French connections are another place small metal noel words appear in my Christmas decorations. Scattered among branches of a table top tree, the word noel adds another layer of French Country style to my Christmas decor. 

The word Noël is a Christmas tradition that adds joy, laughter, sparkle, beauty, and nostalgia to Christmas throughout my house each year. 

May your Christmas traditions add Joy to your house!