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

April 17, 2019 — This coming April 22, 2019, we will be celebrating two different events: Easter Monday and Earth Day. “Today the waves of destruction, personal and planetary, revert to springs of hope," writes Fr. Erik Oland, Superior of the Jesuits in Canada in a new letter to the Province.

April 18, 2019 — Fathers Leonard Altilia and John O’Brien comment upon the Pope’s latest Apostolic Exhortation through a Jesuit and Canadian perspective.

April 15, 2019 — The 9th edition of the Lonergan Symposium will be held next May 4, jointly organized by the Centre Culturel Chrétien de Montréal and the Lonergan network.

April 11, 2019 — How can the Church, this two-thousand-year-old institution, still reach today's youth? Fannie Dionne dwells into 3 points of Pope Francis' apostolic exhortation.

April 11, 2019 — René Goupil is one of two such residences in the Province that provides a caring and supportive environment for elderly Jesuits. They may be active in the field no longer but the depth of life experience they bring to the mission of 'praying for the Society' can only enhance the quality of their prayer.

April 11, 2019 — A book devoted to reconciliation with indigenous peoples was launched on March 27, at McGill University’s Newman Centre.

April 11, 2019 — Next July, after 14 years as Managing Director, Mireille Chilloux will leave her position at Mer et Monde.

view all news

Search news

Publications

Jesuit (Winter 2019)

Relations - avril 2019

Loyola Today



Anishinabe Spiritual Centre
The Anishinabe Spiritual Centre is a place of peace, a beautiful retreat space, a welcoming ...