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The Huron Carol: In the Moon of Wintertime PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Monday, 22 December 2008 08:19
Really lovely and different.

The Huron Carol, written in 1643 by Jesuit missionary and martyr,Jean de Brébeuf, a Christian missionary at Sainte-Marie among the Hurons in Canada. Brébeuf wrote the lyrics in the native language of the Huron/Wendat people; the song's original Huron title is "Jesous Ahatonhia" ("Jesus, he is born").

Brebeuf was part of the 17th century French revival that I have posted about before. (Here, here, and here) The Iroquois, who martyred Brefeuf 6 years later, also attacked and destroyed the Huron mission in 1649 and 1650. St. Marie Among the Hurons has been recreated as a living museum and there are some fascinating details about life in the mission on their website. There is a fascinating museum of western Jesuit missions at St. Louis University Art Museum. (Blogger Mark Scott Abeln posted some very nice online pictures of some of the collection here.)

Next time I'm in town, I must visit!

According to Jesuit Father Francis X. Heiser's accoun, the Hurons who escaped the Iroquois attacks preserved the hymn. They later settled at Loretto, near Quebec, led by other missionaries. Father Étienne de Villeneuve recorded the words of the hymn, which were found among his papers following his death in 1794.

Father Heiser gave the second stanza of Father de Brébeuf's hymn in the original Huron language. (He said that the Hurons have no M, so the missionaries substituted for it the French dipthong ou, so "Mary" appears as "Ouarie" (pronounced 'Warie').

Aloki ekwatatennonten shekwachiendaen
Iontonk ontatiande ndio sen tsatonnharonnion
Ouarie onnawakueton ndio sen tsatonnharonnion
Iesous ahatonnia!

The song's melody is a traditional French folk song, "Une Jeune Pucelle" ("A Young Maid"). The well known English lyrics were written in 1926 by Jesse Edgar Middleton.

This recording is in all three languages: Huron/Wendat, French, and English.


The English words sung in this recording are different from the lyrics I've been able to find about the net and I don't know why. The English rendition of the text of the hymn as it appears here is from Selections from the Pius X Hymnal except for the second stanza, which is from Father Heiser's book.

The Huron Carol

Twas 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.

O, harken to the angels' word,
Do not decline
To heed the message which you heard:
The Child Divine,
As they proclaim, has come this morn
Of Mary pure. Let us adore.
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 heav'n
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.

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