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Best wishes for a wonderful holiday season!


I used to love Christmas carols and I was reminded this week of how much I enjoy The Huron Carol, which I learned as a child.

It's thought to be the first North American Christmas carol, and was written in about 1643 by Saint John de Brébeuf, a Jesuit missionary to the Huron Indians, who was martyred in 1649 by the Iroquois. The illustration above is from the children's book: The Huron Carol, illustrated by Ian Wallace.

I find the melody -- and the carol's history -- haunting. This version begins in Huron and later, switches to some English language verses.


Here are the first few verses:

The Huron Carol

T'was in the moon of wintertime
When all the birds had fled,
That mighty Gitchi Manitou
Sent angel choirs instead;
Before their light the stars grew dim,
And wond'ring hunters heard the hymn:
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.

It's believed that Brébeuf set his words to the tune of a popular 17th century French song "A Young Maid."

I can only imagine how cold and difficult the Canadian landscape must have seemed to Father Brébeuf when he arrived, perhaps the first of about 30 Jesuit missionaries who crossed the Atlantic to New France with Samuel de Champlain.

Fr. Brébeuf spent a turbulent 24 years dedicated to the Jesuit cause and worked with the people of the Hurons, the Wyandot confederacy, living on Lake Huron in what is now southern Ontario. The Huron called him "Echon", meaning 'one who carries burdens' or 'load bearer.' It seems that he was willing to pitch in and help his new society, learning to adapt while teaching his ways as well -- that is, Christianity.

The Huron Carol was a powerful teaching tool for a missionary. Of course, Brébeuf had to place the story of the Nativity in a more understandable context. Rather than the Middle East of the Bible, the Canadian version tells of a babe wrapped in rabbit-skin with chiefs from far visiting his lodge of broken bark.

The Jesuits' story ends badly. The Hurons finally lost in battle to the aggressive Iroquois, and numerous priests, including Fr. Brébeuf, were martyred horribly.

But it's Christmas, so I won't dwell on the deaths of missonaries or any of the controversial issues related to their presence and work among First Nations.

I'll simply close by saying Merry Christmas, happy holidays and best wishes to all my blogging friends!

Comments (14)

Merry Christmas to you! Hope you have a fantastic day. :)

This is such a beautiful song! I'd never heard it before. I'm embarrassed to admit how little I know about Canada's history.

I love Christmas music and it's so cool to hear a new song today, so thanks so much for sharing this. I hope that you and yours have a wonderful holiday (and that it's not too much of a Winter Wonderland up your way!).

Sandra, I really enjoyed this song. It is the first time I have heard of it. I also must say I do not know much about Canada's history. I even had to look up Boxing Day again (even though I remembered reading about it last year). Have a wonderful Christmas!!

Kathy (Trekcapri):

Hi Sandra, this was a wonderful post. I really enjoyed learning about the history of this Christmas Carol and also listening to it on the youtube link. Thank you so much for sharing it with us.

I want to wish you and your family a very Merry Christmas and a wonderful New Year Sandra!


Leslie, I hope that you and your family had a wonderful Christmas!

Annie, it is a winter wonderland around here today -- snow has been steadily falling but it's not too cold (for a change) so it's quite beautiful!

I think most Canadians, myself included, don't know a lot about our history. And stories about First Nations people are especially not well-understood, in part because history is written by the victors.

Still, there are fascinating stories from the days of the fur trade, and the period when France and England were fighting for control of what became Canada is pretty fascinating.

Have a wonderful Christmas, Annie!

Girasoli, I didn't realize that Boxing Day isn't marked in the U.S. -- it's not a big deal here either, although it used to be the day when stores would have really big sales to unload unsold Christmas merchandise. Now, it seems everything is constantly on sale, so Boxing Day is kinda moot.

Merry Christmas, Girasoli -- I hope you get to enjoy some of your wonderful Christmas baking.

Hi Kathy, best wishes to you, too and I hope you have a great holiday season.

The Huron Carol is a beautiful song, thanks for sharing it with us! I also enjoyed reading about the history of this carol.

I want to wish you and yours a Merry (and White) Christmas.

That is beautiful. I have never heard it either. I also found the history very interesting.

Merry Christmas to you also and Have a wonderful New Years.

Sandra - a lovely choice! We used to do this one all the time with the choir.

Have a wonderful Christmas!


Sandra, thanks for posting this. I love this hymn. My favourite version was hearing Tom Jackson perform it during one of his Huron Carole benefits...absolute magic, I swear I can still feel the goosebumps these many years later!

Kathy (Trekcapri):

Hi Sandra, just wanted to stop in to wish you a very wonderful and Happy New year! Thank you so much for all the wonderful posts that you have written and blogging on the road. It allowed me to travel vicariously to Italy in 2008 and enjoy a couple of places in Italy that I have not yet visited.

Hope you have someplace really wonderful to visit in 2009! And then I can't wait to hear about your insights there too...

Happy New Year Sandra!


Thanks, everyone!

I'm glad you enjoyed the song, Maria -- and Marta, I think its history makes the song even more poignant.

Jerry, I'm sure this was popular with your choir...it's a beautiful piece.

Anne, I agree -- the Tom Jackson version gives me goosebumps as well, he has a beautiful voice.

Thanks Kathy! I hope you have a wonderful New Year's, as well. I've also enjoyed your blog posts so much, your stories and photos from Spain have been fascinating. Here's hoping we can both have some wonderful travels in 2009!

I hope your Christmas went really well and that you have a great New Year.

Mine will be very quiet, which is just how I like it. :)

I must remember to put some Asti Riccadonna in the fridge. :)

I hope all your travel plans come true for you next year. Whether you go back to tried and true places, or, if you venture out and try something new and different.

I did - with Dubai last year and I LOVED it!! I ahven't stoped talking about it, and no one I knew was keen about it or wanted me to go there or has said anything good about it since - lol.

I just knew that I wanted to go there, and now I can't wait to go back!


Merry Christmas Sandra! This is very interesting! Hope you are having a wonderful holiday.


Leslie, that's very interesting about Dubai and how lucky for you, to find more vacation spots that you love! I hope you're able to return there, and that you also get to travel wherever you wish in 2009.

Chiocciola, thank you! I hope you're having a wonderful holiday as you travel around Mexico. What a great way to spend the holiday season.

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