Christmas Carols, Ancient And Modern

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A few years since, previous to the troubles in the country, there was a custom in Spain at Christ­mas time of setting up in most respectable families what was called the nacimiento, which was a rude imitation of rocks with baby-houses, &c. and clay figures representing the Nativity, the shepherds, ox, and ass kneeling to the holy infant, with Joseph and Mary in a ruinous stable. Large parties used to meet for several nights dancing, reciting speeches from old Spanish plays called " Relaciones," and singing carols to the sound of the Zambomba.*
In France the carols, of which there are nume­rous collections, are called Noels; the season itself being known by the name of Noel or Nouel ; whence came our Nowell or Novell, which may be seen in many carols, though the last term is some­times used in the sense of news or tidings. Some writers have derived Noel from Natalis (which seems however rather doubtful), f as signifying originally a cry of joy at Christmas. It may, per­haps, be derived from the same source as our Yule. It does not appear to have been confined originally to Christmas time, but was used as a cry of joy on many great occasions. At the proclamation of Henry the Sixth it was made use of. Pasquier gives many
* An instrument formed by stretching over the mouth of an earthen jar, a piece of parchment with a slender reed fixed in the centre, by means of which a hollow sound is produced, similar to that of the tambourine when rubbed by the middle finger.
f In Normandy it is called Nuel. In Burgundy, the people pronounce Noe" for Noel. A certain priest at Dijon, wishing to avoid this error, fell into the opposite extreme, and in one of his discourses repeated three or four times, " l'Arche de Noel, et le Patriarche Noel." The Poite-vins write Nau, and in " La vieille Bible des Noels," is found, chanter No.
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