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

August 11, 2019 — Do you have a passion for social justice? Canadian Jesuits International (CJI) is preparing a study tour in July 2020 for Canadian educators and anyone interested in social justice and global solidarity.

August 8, 2019 — This last article in the Prayer with Preferences series returns to the ultimate foundation of the whole process of Universal Apostolic Preferences, and thus to the basis of the whole discernment process that will guide their appropriation in the Jesuit apostolates and communities across Canada.

August 8, 2019 — The triennial Colloquium 2019: Building Communities of Justice and Hope Jesuit schools conference was an amazing experience for the team of ten Loyola High School staff members who attended this year.

August 8, 2019 — On July 31st, the Jesuits of Canada celebrated with two special masses the feast of St. Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Society of Jesus. At the same time, this date marked the first year of the newly formed Canadian province. Jesuits, colleagues and friends came from all over.


July 23, 2019 — The summer edition of the magazine Relations, entitled “Invitation à la marche,” (Invitation to walk) has been on newsstands since July 12. Experiences such as taking a stroll, going on a pilgrimage, demonstrating, migrating and transhumance all show that the human journey starts with walking.

July 23, 2019 — On May 11, the Jesuits celebrated in Canada the priestly ordination of 2 priests and 5 deacons at Saint Paul's Basilica in Toronto.

view all news

Search news

Publications

Campion's Brag

Relations Mai 2019

Canadian Jesuits



Centre de spiritualité Manrèse

Prenant appui sur l’importance qu’Ignace accordait à son expérience personnelle de ...