The Fascinating Story and Lyrics of 'The First Noel' in French

The Story and Lyrics Behind the French Version of 'The First Noel'

Christmas tree in Notre Dame de PAris
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"Aujourd'hui le Roi des Cieux" is the French version of "The First Noel." The two are sung to the same tune, but the words are different. The translation given here is the literal translation of the Christmas carol "Aujourd'hui le Roi des Cieux."

The song has been covered by a variety of popular French artists, including Michaël, but the French version of "The First Noel" is most commonly sung today by a church and lay choirs. 

The History of 'The First Noel' 

"The First Noel" very likely began as a song that was passed along orally and sung in the streets outside of churches, since early Christian congregants participated little in the Catholic mass. The term Noël in the French version (Noel in English) apparently derives from a Latin word for news. Thus, the song is about a crier, in this case, an angel, spreading the good news that Jesus Christ (le Roi des Cieux) is born. 

Although thought to be a 18th-century English carol, the structure of "The First Noel" resembles that of medieval French epic poems, chansons de geste like La Chanson de Roland memorializing the Charlemagne legends; these poems were likewise not written down. The song was not transcribed until 1823 when it was published in London as part of an early anthology called Some Ancient Christmas Carols. The English title appears in The Cornish Songbook (1929), which could mean "The First Noel" originated in Cornwall, situated across the Channel from France. 

Christmas hymns, on the other hand, were written down as early as the 4th century A.D. in the form of Latin songs glorifying the concept of Jesus Christ as the son of God, an important element of orthodox Christian theology at the time. Many hymns were drawn, for instance, from the 12 long poems of the fourth-century Roman poet and jurist Aurelius Clemens Prudentius.

French Lyrics and English Translation

Here is the French version of "The First Noel" and the English translation:
Aujourd'hui le Roi des Cieux au milieu de la nuit
Voulut naître chez nous de la Vierge Marie
Pour sauver le genre humain, l'arracher au péché
Ramener au Seigneur ses enfants égarés.

Today the King of Heaven in the middle of the night
Was born on Earth of the Virgin Mary
To save the human race, pull it from sin
Return the Lord's lost children to him.
Noël, Noël, Noël, Noël

Jésus est né, chantons Noël !
Noel, Noel, Noel, Noel
Jesus is born, let us sing Noel!
En ces lieux durant la nuit demeuraient les bergers
Qui gardaient leurs troupeaux dans les champs de Judée
Or, un ange du Seigneur apparut dans les cieux
Et la gloire de Dieu resplendit autour d'eux.

In these parts during the night stayed the shepherds
Who kept their flocks in Judea's fields
Now, an angel of the Lord appeared in the skies
And the glory of God glowed around them.
L'ange dit : « Ne craignez pas ; soyez tous dans la joie
Un Sauveur vous est né, c'est le Christ, votre Roi
Près d'ici, vous trouverez dans l'étable, couché
D'un lange emmailloté, un enfant nouveau-né ».

The angel said, "Do not fear; everyone be joyful
A Savior is born to you, it's Christ, your King
Nearby, you will find in the stable, put to bed
Wrapped up in a flannel blanket, a newborn child."

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Team, ThoughtCo. "The Fascinating Story and Lyrics of 'The First Noel' in French." ThoughtCo, Dec. 6, 2021, Team, ThoughtCo. (2021, December 6). The Fascinating Story and Lyrics of 'The First Noel' in French. Retrieved from Team, ThoughtCo. "The Fascinating Story and Lyrics of 'The First Noel' in French." ThoughtCo. (accessed March 30, 2023).