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The Word Christmas: Meaning and
"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
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 NoŽl or Nowel. As to the
derivation of the word NoŽl, 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 ProvenÁal
nadaŁ, 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 NoŽl 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 NoŽl; and in
Italian by Il Natale, which, together with its cognate term in Spanish, is
simply a contraction of dies natalis, "the birthday."