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Christmas: Its Origins and Associations
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Christmas: Its Origins and Associations

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"Christmas" (pronounced Kris'mas) signifies "Christ's Mass," meaning the festival of the Nativity of Christ, and the word has been variously spelt at different periods. The following are obsolete forms of it found in old English writings: Crystmasse, Cristmes, Cristmas, Crestenmes, Crestenmas, Cristemes, Cristynmes, Crismas, Kyrsomas, Xtemas, Cristesmesse, Cristemasse, Crystenmas, Crystynmas, Chrystmas, Chrystemes, Chrystemasse, Chrystymesse, Cristenmas, Christenmas, Christmass, Christmes. Christmas has also been called Noël or Nowel. As to the derivation of the word Noël, some say it is a contraction of the French nouvelles (tidings), les bonnes nouvelles, that is "The good news of the Gospel"; others take it as an abbreviation of the Gascon or Provençal nadaü, nadal, which means the same as the Latin natalis, that is, dies natalis, "the birthday." In "The Franklin's Tale," Chaucer alludes to "Nowel" as a festive cry at Christmastide: "And 'Nowel' crieth every lusty man." Some say Noël is a corruption of Yule, Jule, or Ule, meaning "The festival of the sun." The name Yule is still applied to the festival in Scotland, and some other places. Christmas is represented in Welsh by Nadolig, which signifies "the natal, or birth"; in French by Noël; and in Italian by Il Natale, which, together with its cognate term in Spanish, is simply a contraction of dies natalis, "the birthday."


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