Recorded in many spellings including Naul, Knells, Naull, Naulls, Noale, Noel, Noell, Nowell, and Nowill, this ancient surname is English but of French origins. It derives from the pre 10th century Old French word "noel" meaning Christmas, and was probably introduced by the Normans after the 1066 Invasion. It is a baptismal name or a medieval nickname for somebody born at the Christmas holiday. Similar surnames include Easter and Midwinter, although Michaelmass which certainly existed in the 15th century seems to have disappeared. Holidays in olden times were both rarer and usually shorter, and were associated with much more festivity than in the 20th century. They usually included fairs and theatres, in which everybody was encouraged to take part, rather than sitting around a TV It has been suggested that on occasion the name could have been satirical, in that a Christmas birth presumably prevented members of the family taking part in the festivities. Early examples of the surname recording include William Nowel in the 1248 rolls of the county of Huntingdon, and John Nowell in the register of Oxford University, in 1578. Other recordings of the variant forms include Thomas Knells of London, on May 11th 1574, Edward Naull, at St Botolphs church, Bishopgate, London, on May 1st 1700, and Elizabeth Noale, at St Botolphs without Aldgate, also London, on November 1st 1822.
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