The Huron Carol (Jesous Ahatonhia)

Want to sing along?

Huron Carol Lyrics

Dm Am Dm
Twas in the moon of winter-time When all the birds had fled,
That mighty Gitchi Manitou, Sent angel choirs instead;
G Dm
Before their light the stars grew dim,
Am Dm
And wandering hunters heard the hymn:
F G Dm F G Dm
“Jesus your King is born, Jesus is born, In excelsis gloria.”

Within a lodge of broken bark, The tender Babe was found,
A ragged robe of rabbit skin, Enwrapp’d His beauty round;
But as the hunter braves drew nigh,
The angel song rang loud and high…
“Jesus your King is born, Jesus is born, In excelsis gloria.”

The earliest moon of wintertime, Is not so round and fair
As was the ring of glory, On the helpless infant there.
The chiefs from far before him knelt
With gifts of fox and beaver pelt.
Jesus your King is born, Jesus is born, In excelsis gloria.

O children of the forest free, O sons of Manitou,
The Holy Child of earth and heaven Is born today for you.
Come kneel before the radiant Boy
Who brings you beauty, peace and joy.
“Jesus your King is born, Jesus is born, In excelsis gloria.”

I love how the Christmas story is framed in a Native American way in this song, don’t you? I love how the translator retained a Native word for God – Manitou – which literally means “Great Spirit” in the Algonquian language. Manitowoc, where we used to live, means “Home of the Great Spirit”.

Enjoy our brand new version of Canada’s oldest Christmas song, “The Huron Carol” (Jesous Ahatonhia), along with a couple of other Christmas songs in this little Concert we put on just for you:

A Youtube Christmas Concert Just for You (Click Me)

My favorite lines in the featured song are:

“O children of the forest free, O sons of Manitou,
The Holy Child of earth and heaven Is born today for you”

I love being a free son of the Great Spirit!

“For the Lord is the Spirit, and wherever the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” – 2 Corinthians 3:17

So, as a free son of the Great Spirit, what will we do with our freedom?

I’ll tell you what Jean Brebeuf, the man who wrote the Huron Carol, did with his freedom. He gave his life (literally) to serve the Wendat (Huron) people. Imagine devoting your life serving people who were often suspicious of, and sometimes even hated you, who rarely loved or celebrated you.

Was their suspicion for good reason? How much do we know of how Jean loved and “manifested” the character of Christ? I hope he truly knew and loved Jesus and represent him well?

No one can know for certain I suppose and yet, Jean faithfully stuck with the Wendat and served them best he knew how. He believed so much in the Lord and his mission that in 1649, even after being warned that an Iroquois raiding party was on their way to kill all the inhabitants of his village, he stayed on to help those who chose not to flee for their lives. Instead he was captured and, while being tortured to his death by the Iroqouis, he encouraged his fellow missionaries to consider the eternal glory that awaited them just beyond the pain of the moment. Wow!

What are you going to do with your freedom?

Song Story and History:

The Jesuit missionary, Jean de Brébeuf (1593-1649), is the most likely candidate to have written this song. He lived and worked among the Hurons for 22 years putting their language into written form and trying to “win converts”.

After learning what I had in my research it was hard not to judge the man. I realize that perhaps he did the very best of his ability and knowledge but how can anyone honestly believe that sprinkling someones head and making the sign of the cross over a Native actually did anything to convey the wonderful news and glories of Jesus in someone’s life? Or effect any change in their heart? And why would a Native convert have to adopt a European “Christian” name? This is ridiculous and shameful.

From the documentary (below) Brebeuf confessed that he was making no headway with the Wendat. “That is not our custom”, they would tell him. The one convert he did make was because the man recovered from the smallpox that the missionaries brought with them. The one healed considered it a miracle and that these missionaries God must be more powerful because they remained unaffected by the plague. Once “baptized” he was given a Christian name of Joseph. To be honest, this ticked me off.

Sorry, I couldn’t just whitewash this man’s story and I have to be true to what I have found in my research and also in the documentary video below. This goes to show you that people who write the history books have the power to sway public opinion or make a saint or a villain of anyone.

I found the following from an internet search:

In 1649 an Iroquois war party invaded Huronia, killing or driving out all the Hurons, and destroying the missions. Refusing to leave their people at St. Joseph, Brébeuf and Lalement were captured and killed at the stake after enduring many hours of savage torture.

Some of the Hurons escaped to Lorette, near Quebec City, and there their descendants live to this day. They did not forget Father Brébeuf’s carol, and about 1750 another Jesuit, Father de Villeneuve, heard them singing it and wrote it down. Then it was translated into French under the title “Jesus est né” and it is still sung in that form in Quebec. In 1926, a Canadian poet, J. E. Middleton, wrote the English words, which have become widely known. (From the liner notes of ([Mills-A 1960])

Here is the fascinating documentary of the man Jean Brebeuf:

And here is another hauntingly beautiful version of this song:

Want to try singing the original words in the Wyandot (Huron) language?

Ehstehn yayau deh tsaun we yisus ahattonnia
O na wateh wado:kwi nonnwa ‘ndasqua entai
ehnau sherskwa trivota nonnwa ‘ndi yaun rashata
Iesus Ahattonnia, Ahattonnia, Iesus Ahattonnia.

Ayoki onki hm-ashe eran yayeh raunnaun
yauntaun kanntatya hm-deh ‘ndyaun sehnsatoa ronnyaun
Waria hnawakweh tond Yosehf sataunn haronnyaun
Iesus Ahattonnia, Ahattonnia, Iesus Ahattonnia.

Asheh kaunnta horraskwa deh ha tirri gwames
Tishyaun ayau ha’ndeh ta aun hwa ashya a ha trreh
aundata:kwa Tishyaun yayaun yaun n-dehta
Iesus Ahattonnia, Ahattonnia, Iesus Ahattonnia.

Dau yishyeh sta atyaun errdautau ‘ndi Yisus
avwa tateh dn-deh Tishyaun stanshi teya wennyau
aha yaunna torrehntehn yataun katsyaun skehnn
Iesus Ahattonnia, Ahattonnia, Iesus Ahattonnia.

Eyeh kwata tehnaunnte aheh kwashyehn ayehn
kiyeh kwanaun aukwayaun dehtsaun we ‘ndeh adeh
tarrya diskwann aunkwe yishyehr eya ke naun sta
Iesus Ahattonnia, Ahattonnia, Iesus Ahattonnia.


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