- First Published: Exact year unknown; early publications dated 1823 and 1833
- Key: Major; early versions in D Major (and 3/8 time)
History of “The First Noel”
“The First Noel” (or “Nowell”1) is a traditional English Christmas carol that began gaining popularity in the 1800s, although it may have existed as early as the 13th century. The first publications of the carol were printed in the early 19th century (with slightly different grammar2), one of which was William Sandys’ 1833 holiday collection Christmas Carols Ancient and Modern. The original author of the carol remains unknown.
1 “Nowell” is an anglicized take on the French “Noël,” meaning Christmas. A French dialect – Anglo-Norman – was spoken in some parts of England between the 12th and 15th centuries, and bits of its vocabulary inevitably stuck around and adopted Middle English spelling. Today, both terms are acceptable; however “Nowell” is considered archaic, and is most often used to reference the carol or to romanticize holiday text.
2 The first Nowell, that the Angel did say, was to certain poor Shepherds in field as they lay. In fields where they lay keeping their sheep, in a cold winter’s night that was so deep. Sandys, 1833.
- View complete English lyrics, with chord progression for accompaniment
Learn “The First Noel” on Piano
Complete piano sheet music for “The First Noel” in the key of D Major, available in simple and elaborate form.Choose from the following printer-friendly formats: