Jesous Ahatonhia: the Wendat Christmas carol of Fr. Brébeuf

December 20, 2018 — For years, various anglophone and francophone artists in Canada have brought attention to the carol Jesous Ahatonhia. This ode to the birth of Jesus, the first Christmas carol in the history of the country, would have been composed in 1641-42 by Fr. Jean de Brébeuf, during his time in Huronia.

We write this in the conditional tense because in fact music historians do not agree on the origins of the carol. For some, Jesous Ahatonhia would indeed have been written by Fr. Brébeuf while on mission in the Georgian Bay area. For others, however, the origins of this carol are lost in the oral tradition of the Wendat-Huron converts to Christianity. Jesous Ahatonhia was “rediscovered” in 1794 by the Jesuit Étienne-Thomas de Villeneuve, who at that time was a missionary in the Wendat community of Jeune-Lorette (Wendake). Later the carol was translated from Wendat to French by a Huron elder, Paul Tsawenhohi (aka Picard).

So let’s not deny ourselves the pleasure of enjoying the carol of Fr. Brébeuf as sung by Bruce Cockburn:

In any case, it is very likely that Fr. Brébeuf was the author of this carol! Eager to inculturate Christianity into the habits and customs of the Wendat people, Fr. Brébeuf is notably the author of a catechism in the Huron language. Incidentally, his companions Paul Le Jeune and Antoine Daniel noted the central place occupied by singing in indigenous spirituality, so much so that they had the Wendat neophytes and catechumens sing the catechism as well as the Our Father. “It is a pleasure to hear them sing in the woods what they have learned (of the catechism). Even the women sing it, and sometimes come to listen at the window of my classroom,” writes Fr. Paul Le Jeune in the Relations of 1633.

Clearly the carol takes on an entirely new significance in the wake of the Canadian Canoe Pilgrimage and the commitment of the Jesuits of Canada to reconciliation with First Nations.





Recent News

May 23, 2019 — “The Jesuits first had to learn to say: “We are responsible,” then “We are sorry,” and finally, “We need your help.” This is how Fr. Peter Bisson, SJ, summarizes the evolving relations between the Jesuits and indigenous peoples.

May 23, 2019 — Humility, communion, and renunciation are three "essential elements" for the Church to go forward, Pope Francis sayd in his homily during Mass with representatives of Caritas Internationalis.

May 23, 2019 — The history of Saint Francis Xavier Church and of Saint Kateri Tekakwitha’s Shrine is a story of coming together which still exists today.

May 23, 2019 — Last May 9, Pope Francis turned words into more concrete actions by publishing the “Vos Estis Lux Mundi” Motu Proprio.

May 23, 2019 — Here is a brief summary of news and events that have happened or will happen in the next few days.

Father Jean-Marie Rocheleau died on May 20, 2019, in the infirmary of Richelieu. He was in his 101st year and in religious life for 84 years. He is known to host the "Radio Sacré-Cœur" programs. He dedicated himself to giving the Spiritual Exercises to religious sisters, especially in Quebec.

May 16, 2019 — This past Saturday, May 11, the Jesuit Province of Canada celebrated the priestly ordination of Adam Douglas Hincks, SJ (Canada) and Edward Dawson Penton, SJ (Canada) and 5 diaconal ordinations at Saint Paul's Basilica in Toronto.

view all news

Search news

Publications

Relations Mai 2019

Canadian Jesuits

Jesuit (Winter 2019)



Ignatian Centre
The Ignatian Centre is a Jesuit ministry run by laity dedicated to bringing the Spiritual E...